California Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter to retire

Marvin Baxter to retire
California State Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter, right, has announced he will retire from the bench in January.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Justice Marvin R. Baxter will retire after 24 years on the California Supreme Court, it was announced Wednesday.



An earlier version of this post included Court of Appeal Justice Martin Jenkins in a list of Latinos whom Gov. Jerry Brown might consider elevating to the Supreme Court. Jenkins is African American.



Baxter’s retirement in January will create a second vacancy on the court to be filled by Gov. Jerry Brown. Justice Joyce Kennard retired in April.

Baxter, 74, was nominated to serve on the state’s highest court in 1990 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and served under three chief justices.

“I have been privileged to have such an interesting and fulfilling career in the law,” Baxter said in a statement released by the court. “With three chief justices, 12 associate Justices, and excellent staff, I have been able to contribute to its substantial body of opinions and case law.”


A 1993 Los Angeles Times article described Baxter as having an “emerging reputation among court observers as cautious, conservative and competent.” He was known as the court’s most conservative member in recent years.

The two vacancies give Brown the opportunity to make a significant mark on the court. In April, an adviser to Brown declined to discuss when the governor would replace Kennard or identify the candidates he is considering.

Any candidate would have to be vetted before a State Bar committee, and Brown likes to interview candidates for the court personally.

Among contenders mentioned by judges as possible nominees are Thomas Saenz, the Los Angeles-based president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Stanford University law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Jeffrey W. Johnson, an African American state appeals court justice; and U.S. District Judges Edward J. Davila and Yvonne Rogers Gonzalez, both Obama appointees.

Others whom Brown may be considering include: Justice Miguel Márquez, a former county counsel Brown appointed to the Santa Clara County-based state appeals court; Elena Duarte, an appeals court justice based in Sacramento; UCLA Law School Dean Rachel Moran; UC Davis Law School Dean Kevin Johnson; and Court of Appeal Justices Martin Jenkins, Maria P. Rivera and Dennis M. Perluss.

Baxter served as a deputy district attorney in Fresno County, and later practiced civil law. He became appointments secretary and a key adviser to Deukmejian before being appointed to the Court of Appeal in 1988.

After growing up on a family farm in Fowler, Calif., Baxter graduated from Fresno State University and Hastings College of the Law.

“I was very fortunate when I became Chief Justice to have the quiet-spoken and reflective Justice Baxter on my left-hand side not only on the Supreme Court but also on the Judicial Council. I will miss his sage advice and counsel,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in the statement.


Baxter has been married to Jane Pippert Baxter, a retired teacher, for 51 years. They have two adult children.

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