California Supreme Court Now Half Asian American

Due to one vacancy in the seven-seat California Supreme Court, Asian Americans currently make up half the Justices. Among them is Filipino-American Chief Justice Tani Canti-Sakauye who took office on January 3, 2011.

The other two Asian American justices are Chinese American Ming Chin, 68, and Dutch-Chinese American Joyce Kennard, 69. Kennard — whose mother is Chinese — was appointed by Gov. Deukmejian to a 12-year term that began April 5, 1989. She was retained for a second term by the voters in the 2000 election. Chin was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to a 12-year term that began March 1, 1996. He was retained for a second 12-year term by the voters in 2007.

The vacancy was created by the retirement of Justice Carlos Moreno at the end of February. In early 2010 Moreno was rumored to be considering retirement if Jerry Brown were elected governor in order to have his seat be filled by a liberal Democrat. Moreno is a center-left jurist who was interviewed by the White House in 2009 for the U.S. Supreme Court seat ultimately filled by Sonia Sotomayor. During his first terms as governor Brown picked highly controversial Justices, including the mercurial Rose Bird whom he appointed in 1977 to become California’s first female chief justice. In 1988 Bird also became the first chief justice in the state’s history to be rejected by the voters because of her perceived liberal biases.

Currently four of the six seats are filled by female justices. Remarkably, all six current justices were appointed by Republicans.