Legal Leaders on Professor Goodwin Liu’s Nomination to Calif. Supreme Court

July 26, 2011

by Jeremy Leaming

U.S. Senators blocked his nomination to the federal bench, but California Gov. Jerry Brown is turning to one of the nation’s leading legal scholars, Goodwin Liu, to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court.

California Gov. Jerry Brown in nominating UC Berkeley Law school professor and longtime ACS member and leader Liu to the California Supreme Court, lauded him as “an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar and teacher. He is a nationally-recognized expert on constitutional law and has experience in private practice, government service and in the academic community. I know that he will be an outstanding addition to our state supreme court.”

Liu (pictured) is nominated to replace former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno who left the bench earlier this year for private practice, The Associated Press reports.

Moreno told the AP, “Gov. Brown is to be commended for his visionary and truly meritorious appointment.”

Liu, a son of Taiwanese immigrants, was born in Georgia and grew up in Sacramento. He became involved with ACS early in his legal career as a regular member of the organization’s D.C. chapter, which he would eventually lead, before being named to the ACS Board of Directors. He was later selected to chair the ACS Board.

ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson praised Liu’s scholarship, saying, “We can personally attest to Goodwin’s leadership capabilities, his passion for the law, and sharp legal mind.”

Liu’s nomination, which must be confirmed by the State’s Commission on Judicial Appointments, drew widespread praise from leading legal figures, as noted in this press release from Brown’s office.

Debra L. Zumwait, vice president and general counsel, Stanford University, said, “Goodwin Liu is not only a brilliant legal scholar, but a person of great integrity, fairness, and dedication to public service. He is an inspired choice for the California Supreme Court, which will be enriched by his presence.”

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) President Paul O. Hirose noted that Brown has continued to promote diversity. “Governor Brown once again has demonstrated his commitment to diversity by nominating Professor Liu.” The NAPABA press statement notes that during his first tenure as governor from 1975 – 1983, Brown appointed the first African American to the California Supreme Court, the first woman, the first female Chief Justice to the California high court, and the first openly gay judge to “any court nationwide ….”

At Fair and Unbalanced blog, Brown is praised for beginning, again, the process of diversifying the California Supreme Court, which was remade by a “string of conservative Governors.” The blog notes, that there “is not one justice on the current Court appointed by a Democrat.”

U.S. Senate Republicans defeated Liu’s nomination to the federal bench, in part, by distorting some of his academic work, and because of his opposition to then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. The New York Times blasted Republican opposition to Liu as “laughably thin.”

If Liu’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had been confirmed, it would have added some diversity to that federal appeals court circuit.

“The president has tried to diversify the federal bench,” Fredrickson said shortly after the demise of the nomination, “but this effort has hit a wall of Republican obstructionism in the Senate. Professor Liu, by the way, would have enriched our federal bench. Of the 160 active judges on the federal appeals court, there is not one active Asian Pacific American judge on the Ninth Circuit.”