LOS ANGELES – A San Diego Court of Appeals judge who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants was confirmed Tuesday as the first Latina to serve on the California Supreme Court.
Judge Patricia Guerrero was accepted 3-0 by the Commission for Nominations of Judges to fill the vacancy left by Deputy Judge Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who resigned last year.
Guerrero, 50, grew up in the rural Imperial Valley and has worked as a prosecutor, law firm partner and Supreme Court judge and serves on the state’s 4th Circuit Court. She will be sworn in Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who nominated her.
Guerrero, who was praised by peers and members of the panel, which included Attorney General Rob Bonta and Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, said she was impressed by the historic significance of her appointment to the court.
She said she stands on the shoulders of her grandparents and parents, who immigrated from Mexico to help their children have a better life.
“As I was trying to express, this isn’t just about me or really just my parents, it’s about so many others like us,” Guerrero said. “This is a story of the American Dream, the belief that with hard work, perseverance and opportunity, anything is possible. And for that I am grateful.”
Guerrero was confirmed without appeal after a friendly hearing in the San Francisco Supreme Court. Cantil-Sakauye hinted that it would be a smooth process for Guerrero as she opened the hearing, saying it was a happy occasion.
Supporters praised the breadth of Guerrero’s career, her legal writing and her ability to reach consensus with other judges.
The State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation found her exceptionally well qualified to serve on the state’s highest court.
“Justice Guerrero is phenomenal on several levels,” said Stella Ngai, chair of the commission. “She is universally praised for her superior intellect, clear writing, judgemental temper, work ethic and compassion.”
Guerrero will take the place of Cuéllar, who has resigned to become President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Cuéllar was nominated to the court by Newsom’s predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, also a Democrat.
Five of the seven members of the court were nominated by Democrats and two by Republicans.
Newsom has made diversity a priority at the bench. In 2020, he appointed the first openly gay judge, Martin Jenkins, who is the third black man to stand trial.
Guerrero’s grandfather came to the United States from the Mexican state of Sonora and received a residence permit through a sponsor.
When her father, Jorge Guerrero, arrived in California, he was picking grain and later working in feedlots. He wore cowboy boots to the hearing and beamed from the front row of the courtroom along with Guerrero’s husband and one of their two sons. Her sister and several other family members sat behind them.
Guerrero said she hoped her appointment would serve as a tribute to her mother, a babysitter who recently died of breast cancer, who emphasized the importance of education and telling her children there are no limitations on what they can achieve be able.
Guerrero choked on talking about her mother and said she waited until the end of her remarks because she didn’t think she could get through them if she spoke about her sooner.
“She taught us to be strong, compassionate and independent,” she said. “She showed us how important family is. She showed us that we should thank God for our blessings. And she showed us that we should help other people when we can. She sacrificed everything for us.”
Guerrero graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford Law School. She financed her education through scholarships and a part-time job.
California will now join Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New York and Texas in having Latina judges in their high courts.
Guerrero will receive a salary of $274,000.
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