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Misconduct Report: November 2014

California Supreme Court

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California Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1849
Chief:  $232,060
Associates:  $221,292
Judicial selection
Method:   Gubernatorial appointment of judges
Term:   12 years
Active justices

Kathryn Mickle Werdegar  •  Ming Chin  •  Marvin Baxter  •  Carol Corrigan  •  Goodwin Liu  •  Tani Cantil-Sakauye  •  Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar  •  Leondra Kruger  •  

Seal of California.png

Founded in 1849, the California Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar1994-2015Gov. Pete Wilson
Justice Ming Chin1996-2023Gov. Pete Wilson
Justice Marvin Baxter1/1991-1/2015Gov. George Deukmejian
Justice Carol Corrigan2006-2018Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Justice Goodwin Liu2011-1/3/2027Gov. Jerry Brown
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye2010-2020Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Nominee Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar2015Gov. Jerry Brown
Nominee Leondra Kruger2014-PresentGov. Jerry Brown


The California Constitution gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction in mandamus, certiorari, habeas corpus and prohibition cases. In deciding which cases merit review, the California Supreme Court focuses on significant legal issues of statewide importance. The court has appellate jurisdiction to review parts of or entire cases brought before the California Courts of Appeal or any ruling that results in a judgement of death. The Court also reviews the recommendations from the Commission on Judicial Performance and from the California State Bar for misconduct and disciplinary hearings. The Public Utilities Commission is the only entity that appeals directly to the Supreme Court.[1][2]

Judicial selection

See also: Judicial selection in California

Justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The appointment of a justice must be confirmed via retention referendum at the next gubernatorial election. Incumbent justices stand for retention at the end of their 12-year terms.[1]

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of California was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, California received a score of -0.32. Based on the justices selected, California was the 14th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]


To be considered as a candidate for an appointment a person must:

  • Be an attorney admitted to practice law in California for the last ten years.
  • Or have served as a judge of a California court for the last ten years.

Removal of justices

Judges may be removed in one of three ways:

  • By retention election.
  • Removed by the legislature.
  • Removed by recommendation of the California Commission on Judicial Performance following an investigation of judicial misconduct that leads to the commission to "admonish, suspend, censure, retire, or remove a judge."[4]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 9,237 9,739
2011 10,145 10,063
2010 9,562 9,439
2009 9,274 9,513
2008 10,521 10,440
2007 8,988 9,247


Notable decisions

On May 17, 2008 the California Supreme Court found the State's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Their ruling was broadly worded, virtually invalidating, "any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation."[9] This ruling spurred on Proposition 8, which was to outlaw same-sex marriage again in the state of California. The Proposition 8 ballot measure was approved in the 2008 election, but has been wrapped up in court since, being continually found unconstitutional by courts up the chain of jurisdiction. The most recent ruling on Prop 8 came on February 7, 2012, when the Federal 9th Circuit upheld the overturning of the measure.


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. California earned a grade of C in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[10]

History of the court

The constitution of California was first created and implemented in 1849. In this, the Supreme Court was created to have a Chief Justice and two associate justices, who would be elected by a legislative vote. The first three members of the Court were Serranus Clinton Hastings as the first Chief Justice, and H.A. Lyons and Nathaniel Bennett as associate justices. In 1862 this article was amended so that the court could hear a wider variety of cases, and the number of justices were increased to five. Terms of Supreme Court justices were increased from six years to 10. The number of justices on the court increased again in 1879, from five to seven, as did term limits, which increased from 10 years to 12 years. The Judicial Council of California was established in 1926, under an amendment to Article VI. The Council was, and still is, chaired by the Chief Justice and has the explicit responsibility to "improve the administration of justice and to enact rules of court practice and procedure."[11]

Location of the court

Earl Warren Building

The California Supreme Court meets in the Earl Warren Building in San Francisco, California.

The first court convened in San Francisco and remained there until 1854. In that year, legislative mandate required the court to relocate to the to be determined state capitol. The court then moved to Sacramento in 1855, returning to San Francisco in the 1870s. In 1874, the state legislature ordered the court to hear cases for two months of each year in San Francisco and two months of each year in Sacramento.[12]

Notable firsts

See also

External links



JudgeElection Vote
WerdegarKathryn Mickle Werdegar 72.6% ApprovedA
LiuGoodwin Liu 67.1% ApprovedA
CuéllarMariano-Florentino Cuéllar 67.7% ApprovedA


California Supreme Court, Chief Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Tani Cantil-Sakauye BallotCheckMark.png 4,772,376 67.1%
Against retention 2,345,611 32.9%
California Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Ming Chin BallotCheckMark.png 4,599,967 65.5%
Against retention 2,427,421 34.5%
  • Click here for 2010 General Election Results from the California Secretary of State.


California Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Joyce Kennard BallotCheckMark.png 4,395,470 74.6%
Against retention 1,501,183 25.4%
California Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Carol Corrigan BallotCheckMark.png 4,304,376 74.4%
Against retention 1,483,509 25.6%


California Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2002 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Kathryn M. Werdegar BallotCheckMark.png 3,776,837 74.2%
Against retention 1,318,662 25.8%
California Supreme Court, Associate Justice
2002 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Marvin Baxter BallotCheckMark.png 3,523,077 71.6%
Against retention 1,399,418 28.4%
  • Click here for 2002 General Election Results from the California Secretary of State.

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