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California Supreme Court Justice Steps Down To Take New Position

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


A California State Supreme Court Justice is stepping down from his position after landing a cushy new D.C job.

Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar has been tapped to become the new president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Associated Press reported.

This will give Gov. Gavin Newsom, who just survived his own recall election, the opportunity to appoint a new justice to the court.

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Newsom “looks forward to considering several highly qualified candidates” his office said in a statement congratulating the justice on his new position.

He said he will choose “from a broad, experienced pool of candidates that reflects all aspects of the state’s diversity – a core tenet the administration works to advance at all levels of state government.”

Some said they were surprised that the justice would leave his position to take on this new post.

“I think it probably took most people by surprise that (Cuéllar) would leave the court, and for a think tank,” David Ettinger, an attorney who pens a blog about the California Supreme Court said. “Maybe that’s because of his academic background that he feels he can make more of a difference that way than as a member of the court.”

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He said he believes that Gov. Newsom will appoint a Hispanic judge, “someone who’s both Latinx and a sitting (appeals court) judge currently.”

He said that he believed that the justice’s announcement coming after the recall election won by Gov. Newsom was not a coincidence.

“He probably would not want Gov. Elder to appoint his successor to the court,” he said, a reference to the leading Republican in the recall election won by Gov. Newsom. ”That is my guess. He wouldn’t have left the court if the recall had succeeded.”

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Cuéllar did not say if the recall played a role in his decision or the timing of his announcement, though his move has been in the works for a while.

Cuéllar was appointed by former governor Jerry Brown in 2014 and took the bench in January 2015 after serving in the administration of former President Barack Obama.

The court is dominated by nominees of Democratic governors, though many of its decisions are unanimous. Two of the seven were appointed by former GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Four were appointed by Brown and one by Newsom, both Democrats.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tino Cuéllar as the new president of the Carnegie Endowment. Tino is an exceptional leader who brings a lifelong commitment to innovative policy ideas and an intellectual heft that will help us in our impactful work to build peace and prosperity. His stellar and varied career path embodies the strategic perspective and analytic incisiveness required for this important role to take on the numerous complex and intersecting challenges that are putting our international order at risk. Under Tino’s dynamic leadership, our superb Carnegie team will strive for still greater levels of achievement and impact,” Carnegie Endowment board chair and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said.

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“Tino’s quintessentially American immigrant story is a foundation upon which he has built a tremendous career in public service,” former World Bank president and Carnegie Endowment board member Bob Zoellick said. “From law, to policy, to rigorous academic research, Tino sets a new standard for excellence at every turn. I am delighted that he will guide the Carnegie Endowment into its next chapter.”

And the soon to be former justice also celebrated his new position in an announcement of his own.

“I am honored to join the team at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,” he said. “Through some of the most consequential moments in history over more than a century, the Carnegie Endowment has provided decisionmakers shrewd, non-partisan policy ideas for advancing international cooperation on some of the world’s greatest challenges. It will be an honor for me to lead Carnegie’s engagement on the defining global issues of our time, including climate change, the impact of evolving technologies on governance and geopolitics, mass migration, and the potential for rising great power competition.”

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