University of California at Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu was nominated Tuesday to the California Supreme Court, a scant two months after his candidacy for a federal judgeship was derailed by Republican objections to his left-leaning legal philosophy.
In his nomination statement, California Gov. Jerry Brown called Mr. Liu “an extraordinary man and distinguished legal scholar and teacher.”
California Republicans were quick to object to the governor’s selection, although they have no legislative way to stop it like their Washington brethren did. State Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro called it “a predictable but bad pick.”
“Although I didn’t expect any better from Jerry Brown, the appointment sends yet another signal that California is not a safe place for employers or jobs,” Mr. Del Beccaro said. “Activist judges spread uncertainty in the system, and uncertainty discourages employers from investing in California’s future.”
Mr. Liu, 40, was President Obama’s choice for an opening on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Senate Republicans stonewalled his nomination, citing in part his harsh criticism of conservative Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. during their confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court.
Republicans also criticized his youth and lack of courtroom experience. Mr. Liu withdrew his nomination in May after concluding that there was “no possibility of an up-or-down vote on the horizon.”
Mr. Brown noted in his statement that Mr. Liu was supported during the federal confirmation process by some prominent legal conservatives, notably former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr and Richard Painter, former counsel to President George W. Bush.
“He is a nationally recognized expert on constitutional law and has experience in private practice, government service and in the academic community,” said Mr. Brown. “I know that he will be an outstanding addition to our state Supreme Court.”
Mr. Liu would replace former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, who stepped down in February to pursue a career in private practice.
Mr. Moreno was the only Hispanic member of the state Supreme Court, and advocacy groups had urged Mr. Brown to appoint another Hispanic to the high court. Mr. Liu, who was born in Georgia to parents who immigrated from Taiwan, would become the fourth justice of Asian descent serving on the seven-person court.
In a brief statement, Mr. Liu said he was “deeply honored by Gov. Brown’s nomination and look forward to the opportunity to serve the people of California on our state’s highest court.”
The governor is no stranger to controversial judicial appointments. In perhaps the most contentious move of his previous term as governor, Mr. Brown chose Rose Bird, a member of his Cabinet with no judicial experience, to serve as chief justice of the California Supreme Court in 1977.
Mrs. Bird touched off an outcry by voting consistently against the death penalty. Conservatives targeted her for defeat, and she lost a retention election in 1986.
Few could argue with Mr. Liu’s academic achievements. He was a Rhodes Scholar who attended Yale Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He worked as an appellate litigator in Washington before signing on as a professor on the Berkeley faculty in 2003.
Mr. Liu must be confirmed by the California state bar’s Commission on Judicial Appointments and approval is considered likely.