Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown picks a new California Supreme Court justice

Joshua Groban, was named to the California Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown on Nov. 14, 2018.
Joshua Groban, was named to the California Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown on Nov. 14, 2018.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday nominated his senior adviser for judicial appointments to a seat on the California Supreme Court that has been vacant for more than a year.

Joshua Groban, 45, of Los Angeles, served as the legal counsel for Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and oversaw the appointment of approximately 600 state judges over the past two terms, according to a release from Brown’s office.

“Josh Groban has vast knowledge of the law and sound and practical judgment,” Brown said in a statement. “He’ll be a strong addition to California’s highest court.”

Former Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar retired in August 2017, giving Brown a fourth pick on the seven-member court and an opportunity to shape its direction for years to come. This will be the first time in more than three decades that a majority of the court is comprised of Democratic appointments.

What that direction might be, however, remains unclear. Like Brown’s previous three nominees, Groban has never been a judge.

“There’s no way to know what Josh Groban is going to be like as a Supreme Court justice,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. He called Groban “a fascinating pick.”

Groban graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School, the first of Brown’s recent Supreme Court nominees who did not attend his own alma matter, Yale Law School. Before working for Brown, Groban practiced law in Los Angeles and New York, according to the announcement. He has also lectured at UCLA School of Law since 2015.

“Serving the people of California over the past 8 years has been the privilege of a lifetime,” Groban said in a statement. “I am truly humbled by this nomination and, if confirmed, I look forward to working alongside the highest court’s truly exemplary jurists.”

Groban would not be the first justice appointed from a governor’s inner circle to an appellate court position. In 1994, then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed his legal affairs secretary, Janice Rogers Brown, to the Third District Court of Appeals, and two years later elevated her to the California Supreme Court.

Gov. George Deukmejian appointed his former appointments secretary, Marvin Baxter, to the Court of Appeal in Fresno in 1988, before elevating him to the Supreme Court two years later.

Groban’s nomination will now be considered by the California State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. He must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and J. Anthony Kline, the presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal.

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