Endorsement: Retain Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero, Supreme Court and appeals justices
California voters will see the names of four state Supreme Court justices on their Nov. 8 ballots, plus additional names of intermediate level justices in one of the state’s six appellate districts. For voters in Los Angeles County and three other Southern California counties, that’s the 2nd District Court of Appeal, where 12 justices are up for retention.
At the top of the list is Justice Patricia Guerrero, who grew up in the Imperial Valley and became a federal prosecutor, private sector attorney, San Diego Superior Court judge and Court of Appeal justice before Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed her to the state Supreme Court in February. When Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced this summer that she would not seek a second 12-year term, Newsom nominated Guerrero to replace her. If Guerrero wins approval at the polls, she will become chief justice on Jan. 2.
There are seven justices on the state Supreme Court.
Unlike in Superior Court races, in which judicial candidates face off against one another, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justices seek retention without opponents. The voters’ job is to say either “yes” or “no” to each of them.
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Uncontested retention elections and 12-year terms are meant to strike a balance between judicial independence — allowing justices to do their work free of popular sentiment or political partisanship — and accountability to Californians. Accordingly, voters should vote “yes” unless they believe a particular justice has demonstrated unfitness to continue serving. The last time voters defeated justices who were up for retention was in 1986, when they ousted Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other Supreme Court justices on the grounds that they were flouting the state’s death penalty law.
There are no such controversies this year. Guerrero is a distinguished but non-ideological jurist and administrator and a good choice to lead the state’s judicial branch. Each of the other justices has proven records of sound decision-making.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal is divided into eight divisions, of which seven hear appeals from the Los Angeles Superior Court and one hears appeals from superior courts in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. There are four justices in each division, one of whom is appointed by the governor as presiding justice, and three of whom are randomly assigned to hear each appeal.
Retention elections are held only in gubernatorial election years. Appointees generally begin serving as soon as they are confirmed by a three-person commission, and they then face voters the next time the governor is on the ballot.
But their first election isn’t necessarily to a full 12-year term. Justices must first complete the unexpired terms of their predecessors, then return to the ballot for a full term. Liu, for example, was appointed in 2011, then was on the ballot in 2014 for the remainder of a term that expires at the beginning of next year. Now he’s is running for his first full term.
Similarly, if retained by voters, Groban must complete a term that expires in just four years, before being eligible to seek a full 12-year term. Jenkins will begin his 12-year term on Jan. 2 because his predecessor left no additional time on his term when he retired.
For the same reason, voters will consider some Court of Appeal justices who they already voted on as recently as four or eight years ago.
The candidates and recommendations are:
California Chief Justice: Patricia Guerrero. Yes.
Supreme Court Associate Justice:
Goodwin Liu. Yes.
Joshua P. Groban. Yes.
Martin J. Jenkins. Yes.
2nd District Court of Appeal Justice:
Audrey B. Collins. Yes.
Brian S. Currey. Yes.
Elizabeth Annette Grimes. Yes.
Hernaldo J. Baltodano. Yes.
John L. Segal. Yes.
John Shepard Wiley Jr. Yes.
Judith M. Ashmann. Yes.
Lamar W. Baker. Yes.
Luis A. Lavin. Yes.
Frances Rothschild. Yes.
Laurence D. Rubin. Yes.
Maria E. Stratton. Yes.
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