Patricia Guerrero joins California Supreme Court

Patricia Guerrero was sworn in to the California Supreme Court on March 28, 2022. Founded in 1849, the California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. Of the seven current justices, five were appointed by Democratic governors and two by a Republican governor. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Guerrero on Feb. 15, 2022, to a seat on the California Supreme Court to replace Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2021, to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed Guerrero’s appointment on March 22, 2022, and she was sworn in on March 28. Prior to joining the court, Guerrero was a judge of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One from 2017 to 2022.

The seven justices of the California Supreme Court are selected by gubernatorial appointment. The state bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation recommends candidates to the governor after examining their qualifications and fitness. If they wish to retain their seat for the remainder of the unexpired term, newly-appointed judges are required to participate in yes-no retention elections occurring at the time of the next gubernatorial race, which is held every four years. After the first election, subsequent retention elections are for full 12-year terms.

California is one of 46 states to fill supreme court vacancies via a form of gubernatorial appointment. Illinois fills vacancies via the state supreme court, while Louisiana uses the special election method. Virginia and South Carolina fill vacancies through legislative elections. 

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