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Law Professor Nominated To California High Court

Office Of Governor

Office Of Governor

A Stanford law professor who was born in Mexico and immigrated to California as a teenager has been selected as the next nominee to the state’s Supreme Court.

Gov. Jerry Brown has named Professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, 41, to replace retiring Justice Marvin Baxter. 

Cuéllar has been at Stanford since 2001. He also assisted President Barack Obama on immigration issues during the Obama transition into office.

UC Davis Law School Dean Kevin Johnson has known Cuéllar for several years and calls him intelligent, funny and respectful, though not afraid to disagree. He says Cuéllar’s life experience will help him on the bench.

"He’s worked in the political arena in immigration, he’s lived the immigrant experience and he’s familiar with the law of immigration," says Johnson. "And I think that will add significantly to his role on the Supreme Court because these issues come up rather regularly now-a-days.” 

Cuéllar has never been a judge. Johnson says while it’s become common to appoint lower court judges to higher court positions, he says, historically, a range of people have been appointed to the judiciary.

If approved by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, Cuéllar must then be approved by voters in November. Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson says Cuéllar is a strong candidate, who also happens to fulfill some political objectives for the Governor.

"This nomination actually I think is in keeping with Governor Brown’s push to increase diversity on the court, whether it be on Appellate level or on the highest Appellate level, the California Supreme Court," says Levinson.

If elected, Cuéllar will begin a 12-year term in January.

This is Brown's second nomination since returning to the governor's office. In 2011, he filled a vacancy by appointing University of California, Berkeley, law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court after Senate Republicans blocked his nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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