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Goodwin Liu expected to be confirmed to California Supreme Court

August 31, 2011 |  9:23 am

  Goodwin liu

After a protracted and ultimately losing battle for a seat on a federal appeals court, UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu is expected to sail through his state confirmation hearing Wednesday to join the California Supreme Court.

Liu, 40, a constitutional scholar, will be the only Democratic appointee on the seven-member state high court. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Liu last month after his nomination to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to win Republican support in the U.S. Senate.

The three-member state Commission on Judicial Appointments, headed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a Republican, will vote on Liu’s nomination during a hearing Wednesday afternoon. The other members are Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat, and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, a Democratic appointee and the senior presiding appellate court justice in the state.

Liu will join the court immediately, and his name will appear on the ballot for a yes or no retention vote during the next gubernatorial election. He will replace Justice Carlos R. Moreno, who retired Feb. 28. The state court is considered moderately conservative, and Liu is likely to become one of its more liberal voices.

A state bar evaluating committee gave Liu the highest rating possible -- exceptionally well qualified. The American Bar Assn. also had given him its highest rating for the federal appeals court, but conservative Republicans nevertheless objected that Liu was too liberal.

The state bar evaluating committee described Liu in a report to the commission as brilliant, a gifted scholar who was praised for impartiality, integrity, collegiality and “a work ethic second to none.”
“The candidate is not an ideologue and would not tolerate any kind of bias or discrimination,” the bar wrote. “He has an unwavering commitment to equal access to justice and will treat all litigants fairly, without regard to wealth or position in society.”

The commission’s hearing is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.


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-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

Photo: Goodwin Liu, April 16, 2010. Credit: Associated Press, Charles Dharapak