Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
California Supreme Court Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar is preparing for the worst, while Justices Marvin Baxter and Carlos Moreno are kicking back and taking it easy. All three face retention elections on Nov. 5, but only Werdegar — mindful of failed efforts by some conservative groups to oust Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Ming Chin four years ago — has formed a campaign committee. Called Californians to Retain Justice Kathryn Werdegar, it had raised more than $165,000 as of July 30. “It’s a function of what we saw [four] years ago with [Chief] Justice George and Justice Chin,” says Mieczyslaw “Mitch” Zak, a spokesman for Werdegar’s campaign committee. “We wanted to organize a campaign in the event somebody was going to launch a negative attack against her. We’ve taken proactive steps to organize a campaign.” Very proactive indeed, as Werdegar’s high-powered support shows. Republican former Gov. Pete Wilson and Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein are co-chairing Werdegar’s committee. Wilson went to Boalt Hall School of Law with Werdegar and appointed her to the bench in 1994, while Feinstein’s aides say the senator considers Werdegar an “excellent justice” who deserves retention. Among Werdegar’s key contributors so far are A.G. Spanos, a multi-millionaire Stockton developer and owner of the San Diego Chargers who has donated $25,000, and renowned Woodside venture capitalist L. John Doerr III, who nurtured companies such as Netscape Communications Corp. and Amazon.com. He threw in $10,000. [See chart of top contributors to Werdegar's campaign.] “We’re going to be open and willing to talk to anybody who wants to talk to us,” says Zak, of Sacramento’s Randle Communications. Baxter and Moreno have gone the other direction. They have neither formed campaign committees nor raised funds, preferring the relative anonymity of running below the radar. They say they aren’t overly concerned about the election. “I don’t see any issues that implicate me, and I don’t see any interest groups taking a position on my appointment or my relatively short tenure on the court,” says Moreno, 53, who was appointed to the high court 10 months ago by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. “If I perceived there was an issue or an interest group that was going to take a position, then I would take affirmative steps to mount a campaign.” Moreno, who gave up life tenure on the federal bench to join the court, says that at most he might seek endorsements from legal journals and major newspapers — “if they intend to issue any at all.” For his part, the 62-year-old Baxter, appointed to the court in 1990 by Republican former Gov. George Deukmejian, says he simply has a philosophical problem in forming a campaign committee. “I personally am opposed to fund-raising in appellate retention elections for the obvious [conflict] problems it creates,” he says. “It’s hard for me to envision any circumstance where I would engage in fund-raising activities.” Justices are required to face retention votes every 12 years, except in the case of a brand-new member of the bench, such as Moreno, who must go through the process at the next gubernatorial election after being named to the court. The ballot simply asks voters whether the named justice should be retained for the term prescribed by law. Active efforts to oust Supreme Court justices are rare. Former Chief Justice Rose Bird and fellow Justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin were voted off the court in 1986, in part because of their opposition to the death penalty, after an opposition campaign funded largely by business interests. In 1998, current Chief Justice George and Justice Chin, both appointed by Republican governors, were targeted by conservative factions for, among other things, voting in 1997 to strike down a state law requiring girls younger than 18 to get parental consent before having an abortion. George and Chin won retention with ease after raising and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and securing endorsements from a broad spectrum of political leaders. Werdegar, considered a centrist on a court dominated by Republican appointees, sided with Chin and George in that 4-3 ruling — American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren, 16 Cal.4th 307 — which might explain her caution. But so far, Dick Rosengarten, publisher of “Calpeek,” a respected Beverly Hills-based political newsletter, says he has heard of no opposition to Werdegar — or to Baxter and Moreno. State Sen. Ray Haynes, R-Temecula, who openly opposed George and Chin four years ago, says there isn’t an opposition movement this year, even though he claims Werdegar’s voting patterns are similar to George’s. “This time around I’ve not seen the same controversy,” he says. “Most energy this time is focused on the governor’s race.” Werdegar declines to comment on her retention effort, but Zak of Randle Communications says the 66-year-old justice “just wanted to be prepared” for anything. “It’s going to be low key,” he says, of the campaign. “Obviously, her background is an important piece of what makes her the judge she is. She’s got a strong record we will use.” Of the more than $165,000 in contributions to Werdegar’s campaign, more than $92,000 was in the form of personal loans by the candidate herself. The rest comes from various venture capitalists, investors, doctors, business consultants and lawyers. Chief Justice George donated $1,000, as did former San Francisco Superior Court Judge Daniel Weinstein, who is now an arbitrator and mediator for JAMS. Former Boalt Hall School of Law Deans Jesse Choper and Herma Hill Kay contributed also, donating $100 and $500 respectively. Of the more than $82,000 already spent, most has gone for office expenses, slate mailers, accounting expenditures or to Werdegar’s campaign consultants at Randle Communications. Werdegar, like Baxter wary of conflicts, has followed Chief Justice George’s lead from 1998 by establishing a five-member committee to review all campaign contributions. Members include former Gov. Wilson; former First District Court of Appeal Justice Robert Kane; John Davies, Wilson’s former judicial appointments secretary; former Third District Justice Robert Puglia; and Eric George, Ronald George’s son, who’s a partner at Beverly Hills’ Browne & Woods. In addition, Zak says, a Supreme Court staffer checks records to see if any donor is an attorney or party in a case before the court. If so, the money is returned. “We don’t want or have even the appearance of a conflict,” Zak says. He also says not to expect any billboards or television advertisements. “That’s not the justice’s nature,” he states. “We’re going to be reactive.” Related chart: Top Contributors to Kathryn Mickle Werdegar’s Retention Campaign

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.