Gov. Brown Picks Top Aide to Fill Vacancy on California Supreme Court

Joshua Groban is seen in an undated photo provided by the Office of the Governor of California.

Joshua Groban is seen in an undated photo provided by the Office of the Governor of California.

With only weeks left in office, Gov. Jerry Brown named one of his senior advisers Wednesday to fill a long-running vacancy on the California Supreme Court.

The Democratic governor nominated Joshua Groban, 45, of Los Angeles, who has overseen Brown’s appointment of about 600 judges since 2011. Brown said the appointments have been praised as the most diverse in state history.

Groban is the fourth person Brown has named to the seven-member court. If confirmed, he would give the court a majority of Democratic appointees for the first time since voters rejected former Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other Brown appointees in 1986, during his first two terms as governor, said appellate lawyer David Ettinger, who writes a blog about the court.

Groban “has vast knowledge of the law and sound and practical judgment” and will be a strong addition to California’s highest court, Brown said in announcing his pick.

Groban, a Democrat, would be paid $253,189 a year.

Brown waited nearly two years to move to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar.

“I am truly humbled by this nomination and, if confirmed, I look forward to working alongside the highest court’s truly exemplary jurists,” Groban said in a statement.

The nomination now goes to the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Brown’s office expects Groban to take the bench before the governor leaves office in January.

Announcing the appointment after the August deadline for consideration in last week’s election gives Groban four years before he would have to face voters for a retention decision. Justices serve 12-year terms.

Groban would be the court’s first Jewish justice since 2001, though two other Jewish justices have served previously. Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeal said in a statement provided by the governor’s office that the choice “reflects the diversity that makes our Supreme Court reflective of the society it serves.”

Court of Appeal justices have been helping the high court while it was short one justice, but they don’t write majority opinions.

Aside from taking the lead on all judicial appointments for the administration, Groban also advised Brown on lawsuits and policy decisions involving education, the judiciary, criminal justice, national security and constitutional interpretation, the governor’s office said.

He was legal counsel for Brown’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010, a private attorney at two different law firms from 1999 to 2010, and a law clerk for U.S. District Judge William Conner in the Southern District of New York from 1998 to 1999.

He received his law degree from Harvard Law School and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University, both with honors.