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Brown picks failed Obama-appointee for Calif. SC

By John O'Brien | Jul 27, 2011


SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - California Gov. Jerry Brown apparently has the same taste in judges that President Barack Obama has.

Now that Republicans in the U.S. Senate have successfully opposed the nomination of Goodwin Liu to a federal appeals court, Brown has appointed Liu to the California Supreme Court. A public hearing will be held on Aug. 31.

Brown appointed Liu on Wednesday.

"Professor Liu is an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar and teacher," Brown said. "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 was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which hears appeals from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Marina Islands.

In May, Republicans in the U.S. Senate successfully filibustered the nomination, preventing a vote.

"The problem of Professor Liu is he has never practiced law. He's lived in, I think, an unreal world. His writings are beyond anything I've ever seen in justifying the 'evolving Constitution' theory. It's just remarkable," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said.

"If the judge has a philosophy of judging that allows him to update based on cultural changes and advancements and all kinds of evolving standards, at some point they're so untethered from reality, so untethered from law, that they've moved judging from a law practice, an act of lawfulness, to an act of politics, and party and ideology and religion and sociology and whatever's in their head. And judges have never been empowered to do that. Judges are empowered to serve faithfully under the Constitution."

Liu is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley Law School. Prior to joining the Berkeley faculty in 2003, Liu was an appellate litigator in the Washington, D.C. office of Los Angeles-based law firm O'Melveny & Myers. He previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was special assistant to the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

Liu was born in Georgia to parents who had emigrated from Taiwan, and in 1977 he moved with his family to Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He received a bachelor's degree in biology from Stanford University and a master's from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Liu received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale Law School, where he was a member of the Yale Law Journal.

Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno is retiring, creating a vacancy on the court.

The members of the commission who will consider the proposed appointment of Liu are Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chairperson; Attorney General Kamala Harris; and Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three (Los Angeles), senior presiding justice of the state Courts of Appeal.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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