Governor picks Judge Carlos Moreno for Supreme Court
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Gov. Gray Davis on Wednesday nominated U.S. District Judge Carlos Moreno of Los Angeles to replace the late Justice Stanley Mosk on the California Supreme Court.
If approved by the three-member commission on Judicial Appointments – considered largely a formality – Moreno would become the first Hispanic to serve on the seven-member court in more than a decade.
Moreno, considered a moderate Democrat, was appointed to the federal bench in 1998 by President Clinton.
The son of a Los Angeles produce wholesaler, he graduated from Stanford Law School in 1975 and climbed the judicial ladder with assistance from Democrats and Republicans.
Moreno was appointed to the Compton Municipal Court bench by Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, and Republican Gov. Pete Wilson made him a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
As a federal judge Moreno has been tough on crime and drug defendants and sided with environmentalists by ordering the government to declare habitat areas for the tidewater goby.
Moreno’s nomination is certain to please Hispanic lawyers and officials, who have asked Davis to appoint a Latino to the court. The court now consists of two Asian-Americans, one black and three white justices.
Moreno was one of four judges whose names Davis submitted in early August for evaluation by the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission, an offshoot of the State Bar.
The others were Justice Dennis Cornell of the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Perluss and 2nd District Court of Appeal Justice Steven Perren of Ventura. The evaluation commission’s findings on the candidates have not been made public.
Moreno faces a daunting challenge in succeeding Mosk, an influential and widely acclaimed jurist who died June 19 at age 88 after serving on the court for a record 37 years.
Mosk was the only Democrat on the court and its most liberal member at the time of his death. He authored nearly 1,700 opinions including landmark rulings in civil and criminal law.
Like the other three potential candidates, Moreno is viewed as less liberal than Mosk.
His nomination is expected to be approved by a commission whose members are Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein.
Moreno would give up a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary to assume a post with 12-year terms. Mosk’s term would have expired in 2010, but Moreno would be required to seek voter approval next year to retain the seat.
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