Justice Carlos Moreno is stepping down at the end of next month. Rory Little is a Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He says the move gives Governor Jerry Brown a rare, early opportunity to make his mark:
"Jerry Brown is probably looking for someone young enough to continue whatever the Brown legacy is beyond the term of his office, so it's a very important pick, it's a very significant moment and you know, Jerry Brown will immediately be judged by the quality of his appointee."
It won't be Brown's first Supreme Court nominee. The last time he was Governor, he made the controversial appointment of Rose Bird as Chief Justice. She angered social conservatives and was later ousted by voters along with two other justices. But Little says he doesn't expect that will play a big role in Brown's decision-making:
"My sense is Jerry Brown is approaching this Governorship completely fresh. I doubt he's approaching the appointment feeling gee, I've got to avoid another Rose Bird controversy."
Justice Moreno is the sole Democrat on the high court. He was appointed by Governor Gray Davis in 2001. Dean Kevin Johnson of the UC Davis School of Law says he'll likely be most remembered as the sole dissenter in the court's ruling on proposition eight, the state's same-sex marriage ban. The court upheld the measure:
"I think that his willingness to stand up and to register an opinion on a controversial issue in a difficult time when he was in a distinct minority will go down in state judicial history as a monument or milestone."
Moreno didn't give a reason for stepping down, but said in a statement that he looked forward to "weighing his options in the private sector."