Brown Nominates Goodwin Liu to State Supreme Court


Goodwin Liu

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday nominated Goodwin Liu, professor of law at UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, to the state Supreme Court.

Liu, 40, previously was nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is based in San Francisco, but Liu withdrew his nomination two months ago after a Republican filibuster prevented senators from voting on his confirmation.

“Professor Liu is an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar and teacher,” Brown said. “He is a nationally recognized expert on constitutional law and has experience in private practice, government service and in the academic community. I know that he will be an outstanding addition to our state Supreme Court.”

Prior to joining the Berkeley faculty in 2003, Liu was an appellate litigator in the Washington, D.C. office of Los Angeles-based law firm O’Melveny & Myers. He previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was special assistant to the deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

Liu was born in Georgia to parents who had emigrated from Taiwan, and in 1977 he moved with his family to Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University and a master’s from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. Liu received his Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School, where he was a member of the Yale Law Journal.

Two years ago he won the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s most prestigious honor for excellence in teaching. Liu currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and is former board chair of the American Constitution Society. He was elected to the American Law Institute and is also on the boards of the National Women’s Law Center, Public Welfare Foundation, and Alliance for Excellent Education.

He and his wife, Ann O’Leary, have a daughter and a son.

In response to his selection, Liu said: “I’m 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.”

Although U.S. Senate Republicans blocked his appointment to the federal bench, his nomination was supported by noted legal conservatives, including former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr; Richard Painter, who was legal counsel to President George W. Bush; and former Rep. Tom Campbell, now dean of Chapman University’s law school.

Liu received endorsements from the American Bar Association, California Correctional Police Officers Association, California Labor Federation, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the three most recent presidents of Stanford University.

Brown has forwarded Liu’s name to the State Bar’s Commission of Judicial Nominees Evaluation for review. The Commission on Judicial Appointments, consisting of State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal, will hold one or more public hearings to review Liu’s nomination. Although the bar committee’s recommendation is not binding, the governor’s appointment will not become final until the Commission on Judicial Appointments confirms the nomination.

Strong Support

Leaders in the legal field expressed strong support for the nomination. Former Associate Justice Carlos Moreno, whom Liu will replace, said, “Goodwin Liu is a brilliant scholar and dedicated teacher. He is admired for his measured, balanced and rational judgment, and for his outstanding reputation as a fine colleague at the Berkeley School of Law. He brings his considerable intellectual depth in the law to a wonderful, precedent-setting court, along with an abiding conviction for equal justice for all.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley: “His personal integrity and intellectual honesty, coupled with his knowledge and experience, is the grounding upon which Professor Liu advocates for the protection of the actual words of the Constitution while striving to preserve its modern-day meaning. Professor Liu has not just limited his life experiences to academia; rather, he has lived and continues to live a life to which many in our society today can relate.”

Stanford University Vice President and General Counsel Debra Zumwalt: “Goodwin Liu is not only a brilliant legal scholar, but a person of great integrity, fairness, and dedication to public service. He is an inspired choice for the California Supreme Court, which will be enriched by his presence.”

Former State Bar of California President Holly Fujie: “I cannot imagine a better candidate for the position. I think it is a brilliant appointment that will have a significant positive impact on California jurisprudence for decades to come. Gov. Brown is to be congratulated on this excellent selection.”

Dale Minami of Minami Tamaki LLP: “I am speechless but not wordless. To appoint someone with the intellect, compassion and integrity of a Goodwin Liu to the greatest Supreme Court in this country is a reflection of Gov. Brown’s commitment to justice. This is a remarkable choice.”


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