Thursday, July 15, 2010

Replacing the Chief: The Elite Eight

Yesterday we kicked off speculation over who Governor Schwarzenegger would nominate to succeed Chief Justice Ron George. We began by deducing the Governor (and the Chief, for that matter) would prefer someone with court administrative experience.

The LA Times confirms our hunch. “George said he had recommended that Schwarzenegger nominate a judge with administrative court experience. [¶] ‘This will be one of the most important legacies that Gov. Schwarzenegger has to leave,’ he said.”

Another clue: In his official public statement, the Chief explained he will retire “with complete confidence in Governor Schwarzenegger’s commitment to appoint a successor who meets the high standards reflected in the judicial appointments he has made during his tenure as Governor of California.”

I realize the Chief was not guaranteeing the nominee will be a previous Schwarzenegger appointee. Still, it gives us something to work with. 

Let’s expand beyond the APJs and PJs we mentioned yesterday: Justices William R. McGuiness, Roger W. Boren, Arthur G. Scotland, Judith McConnell, and Conrad L. Rushing — all of whom are eminently qualified but none of whom were appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Instead, let’s broaden our search to any Court of Appeal justice appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger who has administrative experience. We can define “administrative experience” loosely to include service as a Presiding Judge of a Superior Court or an administrator in a governmental agency.

And let’s look for service on notable statewide committees — the sort of thing a CJ must do regularly. The preeminent committee would be the Judicial Council of California. Judicial Council service benefits the candidate in several ways, including close work with the Chief Justice and the other Supreme Court justices.

As for politics? Both the Governor and the CJ have been described as moderate Republicans. We can look for a Republican nominee, then. On the other hand, bipartisan credentials may come in handy when working with new governors and the Legislature.

Many Court of Appeal justices fit this bill. Let’s include some of them on our expanded candidate list. After my dad’s favorite movie, we can call them the “Magnificent Seven.”

Justice Peter Siggins. (On the left, speaking with the Chief.)  He served as Governor Schwarzenegger’s legal affairs secretary and interim chief of staff before his appointment to the 1st District Court of Appeal. Before that, he was Chief Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Bill Lockyer (a Democrat!), where “he was responsible for the oversight and operation of the California Attorney General's Office.” He also “serves on several committees and work groups sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Courts dealing with coordination of issues faced by federal and state courts, judicial compensation, judicial education and the electronic filing of legal documents.”

Justice Terry Bruiniers. Governor Schwarzenegger named him to the 1st District Court of Appeal in June 2009. He served as Presiding Judge of the Contra Costa Superior Court in 2007-2008. The Chief Justice appointed him vice-chair of the Judicial Council’s Court Technology Advisory Committee. He has also served “as the appointed vice-chair of the Judicial Council’s Judicial Science Education Committee and the elected Vice-Chair of its Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee.”

Justice Nora M. Manella. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed her to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2006. President Bill Clinton (a Democrat!) named her United States Attorney for the Central District of California, where “she served as the chief federal law enforcement officer for the nation's largest district, administering an office of over 240 lawyers in criminal and civil litigation throughout southern California.” The San Jose Mercury News thinks she’s a front-runner.

Justice Tricia A. Bigelow. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed her to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2008 and later named her Presiding Justice of Division Eight of that district. She has chaired the Center for Judicial Education and Research’s (CJER) New Judge Education Committee and, as Dean to the Judicial College in 2006-2008, “oversaw the education of all newly-appointed judges in California.” She also chaired the CJER Criminal Law Education Committee.

Justice Tani Cantil Sakauye. Governor Schwarzenegger named her to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in 2005. She is a member of the Judicial Council, where she serves on the Rules and Project committee. “She has previously served as a member of the Judicial Council’s Task Force on Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure and chaired the Best Practices Domestic Violence subcommittee.” She is also President of the Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court and “a Special Master, selected by the Supreme Court to hear disciplinary proceedings before the Commission on Judicial Performance.” She was deputy legal affairs secretary and a deputy legislative secretary for Governor Deukmejian.

Justice Douglas P. Miller. Governor Schwarzenegger named him to the 4th District Court of Appeal, Division Two, in 2006. He was Presiding Judge of the Riverside County Superior Court of California in 2003-2004. He was a member of the Judicial Council from 2004-2007, and has served on a slew of JCC committees, task forces, and working groups – too many to list here. He is currently the vice-chair of the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinions.

Justice Brad R. Hill. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed him to the 5th District Court of Appeal in 2006. He was Presiding Judge of the Fresno County Superior Court in 2003-2004. Chief Justice George appointed him “to serve as one of ten trial court judges (2000-2003) and one of three appellate court justices (2007-2010) on the California Judicial Council, the governing body for all trial and appellate courts in California.” He has also served on a long, long list of JCC committees, task forces, and working groups. He was on the board of directors of the California Judges Association in 2004-2006.

(All quotations are from the justice bios at

What if the governor goes the Elena Kagan route and appoints someone with no prior judicial experience? Chief Justices Earl Warren and William Rehnquist fit that bill when they joined the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger Traynor had no prior judicial experience before joining the California Supreme Court (although he was initially an associate justice).

Let’s add one non-judge to the mix, now known as the “Elite Eight.”

Tom Campbell. He is a moderate Republican who recently elevated his profile by running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. He is a Schwarzenegger insider who served as California Director of Finance in 2004-2005. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the California State Senate. And he’s indisputably smart: econ Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Harvard Law School, U.S. Supreme Court clerkship, Stanford law prof, dean of the Haas business school at UC Berkeley.

Last thought:  This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyhow. No one tells me what the Governor or Chief Justice are thinking. This candidate pool certainly isn’t “official” in any sense, nor is it even “informed” in any meaningful sense.  I'm not saying these are the best candidates, or that other jurists and lawyers wouldn't be just as good .  I'm just trying to get a read on who is LIKELY to be nominated.  And all I'm using is my patented blend of equal parts hunch, rumor mill, and caprice, garnished with a little too much time on and