California appellate court justices don’t run in contested elections. They don’t hold news conferences or campaign.
In fact, unless they’re deciding some hot issue – dinging State Controller John Chiang for docking legislators’ pay during a budget impasse in 2011, for instance, or unblocking bond sales for high-speed rail this summer – voters rarely hear their names.
That’s OK. California’s courts of appeal were designed to be shielded from public pressure. Still, voters do get some oversight.
Every four years, about a third of the appellate judges come up for a yes-or-no vote on retention. This year, six 3rd District Court of Appeal justices are on the local ballot, plus one nominee who, if approved, would join the bench in January.
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Presiding Justice Vance W. Raye, appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian, has a long and distinguished record, with 23 years on the appellate bench.
Associate Justice Ronald B. Robie, appointed 12 years ago by Gov. Gray Davis, is a former longtime Sacramento trial judge and an expert on water issues. With Raye, he sat on the three-member panel that ruled on high-speed rail.
Associate Justices William J. Murray, Andrea Lynn Hoch, Elena J. Duarte and Louis Mauro all were appointed in 2010 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Murray sat on the panel that ruled on legislators’ docked pay. He also spent 15 years on the San Joaquin Superior Court and is heavily involved in youth outreach.
Hoch was Schwarzenegger’s legal-affairs secretary. Before that, she spent more than a decade working high-profile cases in the attorney general’s office, including historic litigation against the tobacco industry.
Duarte is a former federal prosecutor and Superior Court judge in Los Angeles and Sacramento. Mauro came up through the attorney general’s office and Schwarzenegger’s legal-affairs office. Both sat on a panel that ruled for Sutter Health in a major suit over a stolen computer full of patient records recently.
Finally, there’s nominee Jonathan K. Renner, a former state prosecutor and Gov. Jerry Brown’s top legal adviser. The State Bar has found him “of superior fitness” and the state Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed him unanimously.
One can agree or disagree with any single decision. But that’s not the point. We want judges to call them as they see them. Third District justices have shown themselves to be jurists who do their jobs with integrity.