Mexico-born law professor Cuellar chosen for California Supreme Court


Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he was nominating Mariano-Florentino Cuellar -- a Mexican immigrant who teaches administrative law at Stanford University -- to the California Supreme Court.

“Tino Cuellar is a renowned scholar who has served two presidents and made significant contributions to both political science and the law,” Brown said. “His vast knowledge and even temperament will -- without question -- add further luster to our highest court.”




An earlier version of this post and its sharelines misspelled Mariano-Florentino Cuellar’s name as Mariano-Florentine Cuellar.


Cuellar, 41, is Brown’s second nominee this term to the high court. In both instances, Brown picked law professors without judicial experience.

Cuellar’s name began circulating as a possible nominee back when Brown was considering who to appoint to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Carlos R. Moreno. Brown’s decision to nominate Goodwin Liu, a UC Berkeley law professor, instead of a Latino angered some Latino bar leaders.

Cuellar was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and for years crossed the border by foot to attend school in Texas. He moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was 14.


Cuellar obtained his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford.

“I am enormously honored by Gov. Brown’s nomination and, if confirmed, I look forward to serving the people of California on our state’s highest court,” Cuellar said.

From 2011 to 2013, Cuellar co-chaired the National Equity and Excellence Commission, created by Congress to help develop ways to close the achievement gap in public schools. He also serves as a presidential appointee to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an agency charged with improving the fairness and efficiency of federal administrative programs. In addition he is a member of the Board of Directors for the Constitution Project, a national bipartisan organization devoted to advancing support for the U.S. Constitution.

Cuellar is married to U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh of the Northern District of California. They have two children.

Cuellar will fill a vacancy created when Justice Marvin R. Baxter retires on Jan. 4, 2015.

After being reviewed by a state bar evaluation committee, Cuellar will go before a three-member judicial appointments commission for confirmation, and his name will appear before voters on the November ballot.

Brown also has another vacancy to fill on the state’s highest court. Former Justice Joyce L. Kennard retired in April. Her successor will give Brown three nominees on the seven-member court, which has been dominated by Republicans for decades.


Follow Maura Dolan on Twitter @mauradolan