Justice Carlos Moreno Retiring

On January 5, 2011 California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno announced his planned resignation to Governor Jerry Brown, who must now appoint a replacement justice after Moreno leaves his post on February 28.   As reported in a story in SF Gate, Moreno stated that the Governor’s victory gave him some comfort about who his replacement might be.   He also stated that he may work in alternative dispute resolution or perhaps at a private law firm.

But finding an adequate replacement for Moreno could be a difficult task, especially at the beginning of Governor Brown’s term.  As the son of Mexican immigrants, graduate of Yale and Stanford Law School, and candidate for the US Supreme Court under Obama (See New York Times article on Justice Moreno).   Moreno has been an important voice for liberal interests.

Moreno authored a decision preserving consumers’ rights to bring class action lawsuits against corporations. See In re Tobacco II Cases (2009) 46 Cal. 4th 298. He dissented when the Court upheld California’s ban on affirmative action in August of 2010, and Moreno has also pleased many gay rights activists as the only justice who voted against Proposition Eight (defining marriage as between a man and woman). See Strauss v. Horton (2009) 46 Cal. 4th 364 (regarding Proposition Eight). On that note, he also authored two other notable decisions on the subject of gay rights. See Elisa B. v. Superior Court (2005) 37 Cal. 4th 108 (holding that California law recognizes parental relationships involving two women); Koebke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club (2005) 36 Cal. 4th 824 (holding that California anti-discrimination law bars businesses from treating registered domestic partners differently from married couples).

Upon Justice Moreno’s resignation, the court will now lack representation of the African-American and Hispanic communities of the state’s population, respectively.   Some speculate that Governor Brown will choose a representative of one of these groups to fill Moreno’s place.  See, e.g., The Herald article.

Despite his liberal leaning, Moreno is revered on both sides of the political spectrum for his skill as a judge.  Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court’s new chief justice, said she had expected to serve alongside Moreno for at least a decade.  She issued a statement praising him as “a consummate professional, a dedicated and gracious jurist.”

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