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The court is generally viewed as cautious, voting more conservatively on criminal issues and moderately on civil matters.
The court consists of a chief justice and six associate justices who are appointed by the governor for 12-year terms. New justices are subject to a retention vote by the public at the next general election after their appointment, and each 12 years thereafter.
The electorate has exercised the power not to retain justices; Chief Justice Rose Bird and Associate Justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin were removed in 1986 because they opposed capital punishment.
The current court:
Chief Justice Ronald George
Often the swing vote on the court.
George was appointed in July 1991 by Gov. Pete Wilson.
Date of Birth: March 11, 1940.
Family: married; 3 children.
Education: J.D., Stanford Law School, 1964; A.B., Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, 1961 "If the motto 'and justice for all' becomes 'and justice for those who can afford it', we threaten the very underpinnings of our social contract," George said in the annual "State of Judiciary" speech in 2001.
From a Dec. 10, 2006, L.A. Times article: Ten years after Chief Justice Ronald M. George became head of California's courts and dramatically transformed the state's judicial branch, many Los Angeles judges remain resentful of their loss of power and control.
Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, calls the Republican George "the best chief justice in California history."
Some judges in Los Angeles have another name for him: "King George."
It is a measure of their distrust that few of George's critics would permit themselves to be quoted by name. Privately, they accuse George of building a judicial empire by centralizing administrative power in an ever-growing state bureaucracy.
Associate Justice Carlos R. Moreno
He is considered a moderate.
Moreno was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of California on Oct. 18, 2001, following his nomination by Gov. Gray Davis.
Date of Birth: Nov. 4, 1948, in Los Angeles
Family: Married to Christine; two children, Keiko and Nicholas
Education: J.D., Stanford Law School, 1975; B.A. (Political Science), Yale University, 1970
Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard
Considered a moderate.
Justice Kennard's rise within the California court system is often described as "meteoric." Appointed to the L.A. Municipal Court in 1986, Kennard was elevated in 1987 to the California Superior Court and elevated again, in 1988, to the California Court of Appeal. Finally, in 1989, Gov. George Deukmejian appointed her to the California Supreme Court.
Born May 6, 1941, in West Java, Indonesia
Education: B.A., USC, 1971; J.D., USC 1974
Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar
She is considered a moderate.
Werdegar was appointed by Gov. Wilson in May 1994. In November 2002, she was reelected to a new term of office that began on Jan. 7, 2003. Before her elevation to the Supreme Court, she served on the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Werdegar was born in San Francisco. She and her husband, a family physician, have two grown sons and three grandchildren.
chin"> Associate Justice Ming W. Chin
Chin and Justice Marvin Baxter are considered the most conservative justices on the court.
On March 1, 1996, Chin became an associate justice of the Supreme Court of California. Gov. Wilson appointed him Jan. 25, 1996.
Gerald Uelmen, former dean of the University of Santa Clara Law School, said of Chin: "His conservative credentials are pretty solid, but he's open-minded. He calls them as he sees them." Justice Chin describes his personal philosophy as best summarized by the concept of "constant improvement."
Chin has been married to Carol Joe, a pharmacist, for 27 years. They reside in the San Francisco Bay Area and have two children, Jennifer, 24, and Jason, 22.
Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter
On today's ruling: The court majority "does not have the right to erase, then recast, the age-old definition of marriage, as virtually all societies have understood it, in order to satisfy its own contemporary notions of equality and justice."
Baxter was appointed by Gov. Deukmejian in January 1991. In 2002, he was reelected to a term of office that began Jan. 7, 2003.
He was born Jan. 9, 1940, in Fowler, Calif. He grew up on the family farm and was educated in the local public schools. As a high school student he was active in student government, the student newspaper and athletics.
He graduated from Cal State Fresno with a degree in economics.
He is married to Jane Pippert Baxter. The Baxters have two children and four grandchildren.
Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan
She calls herself a centrist.
She was appointed December 2005 by Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Born Aug. 16, 1948, she was the only child of a librarian mother and newspaper reporter father, neither of whom graduated from college. Corrigan grew up in Stockton.
Education: B.A., magna cum laude, Holy Names University, 1970 (Student Body President, Founder's Medal). J.D., UC Hastings College of the Law, 1975 (Law Journal, Note and Comment Editor). Doctoral program, clinical psychology, St. Louis University, 1970-1972.
Said Justice Chin on Corrigan's appointment to the court: "Carol will never approach cases with a personal or political agenda. Her sole goal is to get it right."