California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday nominated UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court, two months after Republican opposition forced Liu to withdraw his nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The appointment was cheered by legal scholars but criticized by conservatives irked by Liu's advocacy of such causes as affirmative action and gay marriage.
Liu, 40, would replace retired Justice Carlos Moreno, the court's only Latino and only Democrat.
"Professor Liu is an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar and teacher," Brown said in a statement. "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."
Liu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, was born in Georgia and moved to Sacramento when he was 7. He graduated in 1987 from Rio Americano High School, where he was co-valedictorian. He would become the court's fourth Asian American justice.
Liu's colleagues described him as even-tempered and intellectual, and Moreno called Liu a "brilliant scholar."
Many observers had expected Brown to appoint a Latino to replace Moreno.
Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, said in a prepared statement that Brown had "missed an opportunity to designate a candidate to the Supreme Court who would better reflect the diversity of California."
Brown, a Democrat, said neither race nor gender should be a predominant consideration in judicial appointments, and he said it wasn't in his nomination of Liu. He said he did not ask Liu about the death penalty, gay marriage or other specific issues, instead discussing broader questions about how Liu would approach the law.
Liu became a polarizing figure as President Barack Obama's appeals court nominee. Conservatives some fearing Liu was being prepared for an eventual appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court criticized Liu for his lack of judicial experience and for his public rebuke of Justice Samuel Alito's nomination by President George W. Bush.
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