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Justice Carlos R. Moreno announces retirement from California Supreme Court [Updated]

January 6, 2011 | 10:14 am

Justice Carlos R. Moreno, the only Democrat on the California Supreme Court, announced Thursday he would retire effective Feb. 28, giving Gov. Jerry Brown a vacancy to fill on the high court.

Moreno, 62, appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis, was the only justice who voted to strike down Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned gay marriage. He also is the only Latino on the court.

Moreno joined the high court in October 2001. He has tended to vote with the more liberal justices and in recent months has frequently dissented.

He began his career as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles. Former Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Municipal Court, former Gov. Pete Wilson elevated him to Superior Court, and former President Clinton put him on the federal bench, where he served until his appointment to the state high court.

Moreno lives in Los Angeles and has commuted to the San Francisco-based court, staying in a hotel.

"It has been a truly unique honor and privilege to have served the people of California as a judge for over twenty-four years and, together with my great colleagues on the Court, to have played a modest role in shaping California jurisprudence," Moreno said in a statement released by the court. "I will sincerely miss all who have worked with me at the Court. "

He said he is weighing options "in the private sector, including private practice and alternative dispute resolution." and hoped to broaden his involvement in public affairs.

[Updated at 10:20 a.m.: Brown's first appointment to the state high court as a new governor will be widely watched.  Rose Bird, whom Brown made chief justice during his first term as governor, infuriated conservatives and eventually was booted from the bench by voters. Two other Brown appointees to the state high court also lost their seats in the vote.

Among the candidates Brown is expected to consider is Court of Appeal Justice Martin Jenkins, a moderate Democrat and former federal judge and Alameda County prosecutor. Jenkins, if nominated and approved, would be the only African American on the court.]

[Updated at 11 a.m.: Moreno said in a telephone interview that he hopes to work as a private judge or for a private law firm. He noted that he had "maxed out" on his retirement benefits last year.

"Money is definitely a consideration," he said.

He noted that his mother-in-law, 83, lives with his family, and that he also helps care for a disabled brother-in-law. Moreno has two grown children and an adopted younger daughter who is severely autistic.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who just replaced the retired Ronald M. George as head of the state judiciary and high court, called Moreno "a consummate professional, a dedicated and gracious jurist who has served the federal and state courts for more than 24 years.

"He is known statewide for his distinguished service as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and for his dedicated leadership of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care, which has brought improved practices and procedures in juvenile dependency cases.   
 
"I fully expected that Justice Moreno and I would serve together on the Supreme Court for at least another decade," the chief justice continued. "While I am saddened by his announcement and will miss him here, I am happy for him because his future is filled with possibilities. I know I speak for the entire court in acknowledging his outstanding service to the people of California and in wishing him all the best in the future."]

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-- Maura Dolan

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