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California Chief Justice Ronald George announces he will not run for reelection

July 14, 2010 |  1:22 pm

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, whose legacy is likely to be his authorship of a landmark ruling that briefly legalized same-sex marriage in the state, announced Wednesday that he would not run for retention in November.

"My 70th birthday this year focused my attention on a question recently posed by my family: Why file for reelection for another 12-year term, after having authored hundreds of judicial opinions and overseen major administrative reforms in the judicial system? What more do you hope to accomplish other than refining and preserving what has been achieved?" George said."Reflection convinced me now is the right time — while I am at the top of my game — to leave while the proverbial music still plays, and return to private life." 

George, an appointee of former Gov. Pete Wilson, has served 14 years as head of the California court system. When he steps down in January, he will have served a total of of 38 years in the state court system. George is a moderate Republican who has often been a swing vote on the state court high.

He generated national attention over the issue of same-sex marriage. In an interview with The Times, he said he was drawn by memory to a long ago trip he made with his European immigrant parents through the American South.

There, the signs warning "No Negro" or "No colored" left "quite an indelible impression on me," he said. "I think," he concluded, "there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will appoint his successor. The governor may nominate a new chief justice by Sept. 16. Once a justice decides not to file for retention, the governor at the time is responsible for his or her replacement.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

Photo: AP

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