Governor Nominates Stanford Law Professor for California Supreme Court

Stanford University law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar was nominated by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Supreme Court today.

Cuéllar, 41, who was born in Mexico, began teaching at Stanford in 2001 and is an expert in administrative, criminal and international law.

He has been director of the university’s Spogli Institute for International Studies since 2013 and co-directed Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation from 2011 to 2013.

If confirmed by a state commission, Cuéllar will be the only Hispanic judge currently on the seven-member court, which is headquartered in San Francisco.

The court’s most recent Hispanic member, Carlos Moreno, retired in 2011 and is now serving as U.S. ambassador to Belize.

“Tino Cuéllar is a renowned scholar who has served two presidents and made significant contributions to both political science and the law,” Brown said in a statement.

“His vast knowledge and even temperament will – without question – add further luster to our highest court,” the governor said.

Cuéllar served under Pres. Barack Obama as special assistant for justice and regulatory issues in 2009 and 2010 and under Pres. Bill Clinton as a senior Treasury Department advisor from 1997 to 1999.

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

Cuéllar will be Brown’s second appointment to the current court. His first, Goodwin Liu, appointed in 2011, was also a law professor. Liu, 43, taught constitutional law at the University of California at Berkeley.

Cuéllar will replace Justice Marvin Baxter, who announced last month that he will retire when his present term ends on Jan. 4.

Brown also has a third appointment to make, to replace Justice Joyce Kennard, who retired in April.

If Cuéllar is confirmed by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments by November, he would go before California voters on the Nov. 4 ballot for approval and then would have a 12-year term beginning in January before needing voter approval for another term.

Kennard’s replacement would have a four-year-term, to fill out Kennard’s unexpired tenure, before needing new approval by voters.

The commission that will decide whether to confirm Cuéllar is made up of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein.

Cuéllar was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and as a youth walked across the border each day to attend a Catholic school in neighboring Brownsville, Texas.

After his father got a teaching job in Calexico, Cuéllar moved there with his family at age 14 and graduated from Calexico High School. He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, his law degree from Yale University and a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford.

Cuéllar is married to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who sits on the bench of the federal court’s San Jose branch. The couple has two children.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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