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Opinion: Justice in California Now Speaks Both English and Spanish


Patricia Guerrero
Patricia Guerrero. Courtesy California Courts

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s roots may be among the San Francisco elite, but his choice of the daughter of Mexican farmworkers in Imperial Valley to be Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court is inspired.

Chief-Justice-to-be Patricia Guerrero has a legal background that must be the envy of thousands of lawyers in California. It started with her being hired as an assistant U.S. Attorney. She then moved into the rarefied atmosphere of private practice at the national law firm of Latham & Watkins.

Then she was appointed to the Superior Court in San Diego, then to the California Court of Appeals and finally to the California Supreme Court. She is the first Hispanic woman to serve on the court in its 172 years of existence.

And now she is the first Hispanic to be appointed Chief Justice of the top court in America’s largest state.

She has achieved what every nascent lawyer dreams of as they work their way through law school with thousands of borrowed dollars.

So Newsom has definitely picked a winner in Justice Guerrero. Considering his choices are not always so intelligently made — remember the dinner at the tony French Laundry in Yountville during the pandemic — he’s making a recovery by nominating Guerrero.

Any complaints that Guerrero’s appointment is based on ethnicity are simply baloney. She is superbly qualified. In fact, though nearly 40% of Californians have Hispanic roots, she is the first to reach this office.

It certainly is a superior appointment that makes former Gov. Jerry Brown’s selection of Rose Bird as the first female chief justice in 1977 looks like the worst judicial appointment in the state’s history.

California voters rejected her along with Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, another Brown appointee, in 1986. Had Bird been as qualified as Guerrero she wouldn’t have been rejected and neither would Reynoso, the court’s first Hispanic.

The Golden State will be fortunate to have Patricia Guerrero as the Chief Justice of its highest court. Justice in California will truly be multi-lingual.


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