Patricia Guerrero Could be California’s First Latina Supreme Court Chief Justice

Patricia Guerrero made history earlier this year when she was the first Latina confirmed to the California Supreme Court and now she’s set to make history yet again

Justice Patricia Guerrero

Photo: Fourth District Court of Appeal

Patricia Guerrero made history earlier this year when she was the first Latina confirmed to the California Supreme Court and now she’s set to make history yet again. California Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Patricia Guerrero to be the state’s next chief justice this past week and if confirmed she’d be the first Latina to lead the state’s court system. Guerrero is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who earned her juris doctor degree from Stanford. The California court system includes 2,175 judges across 58 trial courts and 105 justices on the Courts of Appeal.  Back in February of this year she made history as the first Latina judge for California’s Supreme Court so now she could be leading the whole court system once confirmed.

“Justice Guerrero has established herself as a widely respected jurist with a formidable intellect and command of the law and deep commitment to equal justice and public service,” Newsom said in a press release. “A first-generation Californian from the Imperial Valley, Justice Guerrero broke barriers as California’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice, enriching our state’s highest court with her insights and deep understanding of the real-world impacts of the Court’s decisions in the lives of everyday Californians. I thank Justice Guerrero for her willingness to step into this role and am confident that the people of California will continue to be well served by her leadership for years to come.”

Guerrero was active in the Latino Law Students Association and helped students at the recruitment and retention center. Guerrero previously did pro bono work, including as a member of the Advisory Board of the Immigration Justice Project. She assisted clients on a pro bono basis including asylum applications and protecting families in need by litigating compliance with fair housing laws.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, California judges are not confirmed by the Legislature and do not get lifetime appointments. Guerrero must first be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, consisting of the chief justice, state Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Manuel Ramirez, the senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal. Afterward, voters will decide  whether to give Guerrero a 12-year term in November.

Guerrero, 50, would replace Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who is stepping down at the end of her term in January. Newsom also announced he planned to nominate Alameda Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans, who would take Guerrero’s spot once she is elevated to chief justice.  That nomination is also historic with Evans being the first  lesbian nominated to California’s Supreme Court.

“If confirmed, I look forward to continuing the strides the Court has made under Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to expand equal access to justice and create a fairer justice system for all Californians,” Guerrero said in a news release.

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