SAN FRANCISCO – California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu is reportedly included in a shortlist of Hillary Clinton’s top choices for the U.S. Supreme Court, according to advocates.
The Hill reported the names citing three groups connected to the campaign, despite Clinton’s public stance that she supports President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. But there are other expected vacancies that would likely be filled by the next president.
Liu joined the state Supreme Court as an Associate Justice in 2011. Prior to his appointment and confirmation, he was a law professor and associate dean at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. He’s been recognized for his writing on constitutional law and education policy.
One attorney who is familiar with Liu said she’s not surprised to hear a California justice is on the list.
“Including him on the list is not something one would do if looking for a doctrinaire type,” Lisa Perrochet, of Horvitz & Levy in Burbank, told the Northern California Record. “He’s been a thoughtful jurist who has been tested on some really complex cases. His intellectual curiosity and engagement come through at argument, as does his respectful judicial temperament.”
Reports about Liu since he joined the court say he is well-reasoned and independent, pointing to concurring and dissenting opinions where he speaks his mind. Administratively, Liu differs from other justices on the state’s highest court in his use of short-term law clerks — a standard of federal courts. To Perrochet, this demonstrates a possible shared belief that traditions can change.
“It may not sound like a big deal, but for some of us who’d become accustomed to the career research attorney model in California intermediate appellate courts and the Supreme Court, it felt like a real sea change at the time. It’s exciting to see traditions evolve in a way that may be beneficial to decision making,” Perrochet said. “Now, if he moved from our state Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court, we could see some similarly tweaked practices that, along with his keen legal acumen, would be great additions to the whole process.”
Liu, whose parents are Taiwanese immigrants, grew up in Sacramento and attended Stanford University and Oxford University. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1998. He clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He has also worked on policy in D.C., serving as special assistant to the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, where he worked on K-12 education policy. Prior to attending law school, he helped launch AmeriCorps, the national service program.
California Supreme Court Justice Mariano Florentino Cuéllar and his wife, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, were also listed as potential nominees, according to The Hill. Clinton’s shortlist is topped by Garland. Sources also mentioned Judges Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Ann Millet, both of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Jane Kelly of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Paul Watford of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Corey Booker of New Jersey.