Patricia Guerrero Confirmed As First Latina on California Supreme Court

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Photo of a female judge in a black robe, with law books in the background.
 (Courtesy of California Courts)

With none of the partisan rancor or political point-scoring on display in this week's Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, a three-member panel in San Francisco on Tuesday quickly and enthusiastically confirmed Patricia Guerrero to the California Supreme Court as its first Latina justice.

"I embrace this nomination, knowing that I'm not here today on my own," Guerrero, currently a judge on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, said at the hearing. "I stand on the shoulders of my grandparents and my parents who came to this country, even though it would be a struggle for them. Like so many immigrant families, they came here to work hard, to seek opportunities and to give better lives to their children."

The Commission on Judicial Appointments, which included Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Fourth District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez, voted 3-0 to confirm Guerrero without so much as a tough question.

"This is a joyous type of hearing," Cantil-Sakauye proclaimed at the start of the process, which took place at the state Supreme Court.

Guerrero, known to friends and co-workers as "Trish," was introduced by three former colleagues who extolled her judgment, legal-writing acumen, leadership and compassion.


"I would describe Trish as a pioneer," said Robert Howard, a partner at the law firm Latham & Watkins in San Diego, where Guerrero worked early on in her legal career.

Related Stories

Noting that Guerrero made partner in just seven years, Howard said, "She earned the respect of her colleagues for intellect, maturity, discretion and judgment. She was admired by young lawyers because of her strong mentorship and patient supervision."

He called Gov. Gavin Newsom's nomination of Guerrero last month "a wise choice," adding that "Justice Guerrero is an American success story who will make an inspiring, thoughtful, intelligent and valued addition to this court."

Guerrero, 50, will take the seat left vacant when Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino "Tino" Cuéllar unexpectedly stepped down last fall to become executive director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Guerrero grew up in Imperial County, east of San Diego, where her father worked as a farm laborer and her mother as a child care provider.

Holding back tears, Guerrero talked about her mother, who she said recently died after a battle with breast cancer.

"She taught us to be strong, compassionate and independent," Guerrero said. "She showed us the importance of family. She showed us to thank God for our blessings, and she showed us that we should help other people when we can."

Guerrero worked in a grocery store as a teenager, helping to raise money to put herself through college. After graduating high school as co-valedictorian, she attended UC Berkeley and then Stanford Law School.

Following a stint in private practice, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego, and in 2013 went on to become a county Superior Court judge. In 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown elevated her to the Court of Appeal.

Throughout her career, Guerrero has mentored students in high school and college and taken on pro bono immigration cases, including asylum applications.

"This is not just about me or really even just about my parents, but it's about so many others, just like us," she said. "This is a story of the American dream, the belief that with hard work, perseverance and opportunities, anything is possible."

At Tuesday's confirmation hearing, Judge Maureen Hallahan, who served with Guerrero on the San Diego County Superior Court, called her an exemplary colleague.

"Expect her to inspire you, support you, engage you and challenge you," she said. "She will never let you down and she will serve with you with dignity, courage and grace."

Newsom will swear in Guerrero at a ceremony scheduled for March 28.