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Goodwin Liu Nominated to California Supreme Court

Finally, some good news.

Gov. Jerry Brown today nominated University of California, Berkeley, law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court.

Liu, 40, withdrew his nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in May after Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation.

“Professor Liu is an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar and teacher,” Brown said in a prepared 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.”

Unlike most things in California, judicial confirmations do not allow for minority obstructionism. Liu is quite confirmable by both the Commission on Judicial Appointments and the state Senate. He would then go on the next general election ballot before voters to approve the nomination, but that would be in 2012 during a Presidential race, so I think he’ll be pretty safe.

One of the major criticisms of how the President has handled judicial nominations is that he hasn’t put a young cadre of legal minds onto the federal bench. He hasn’t built up a farm team for future Presidents to use in their bigger appointments to the Supreme Court. Liu broke that mold, being only 40. And Republicans, sensing that he was too young and too bright to be confirmed and set up as a future Supreme Court candidate, sought to keep him from the Ninth Circuit. But the California Supreme Court is just as good a perch for Liu to jump into SCOTUS, if need be. And while obstruction before the Senate is always a good possibility, they seem to shrink from the more high-profile confirmation fights (see Sotomayor, Kagan). So this is a good fallback that still keeps alive the possibility of Liu on the federal high court.

Good move by Jerry Brown.

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David Dayen

David Dayen