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SACRAMENTO — The learning curve won’t be steep. On Friday, the governor named John Davies to be his adviser on judicial appointments, a job Davies knows well from his work as judicial appointments secretary during Gov. Pete Wilson’s second term. Davies, 70, will work with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff, Pat Clarey, and his legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, in deciding how to fill the hundreds of judicial vacancies likely to open during Schwarzenegger’s term. The job title of adviser, rather than appointments secretary, suggests a more collaborative approach to the job, said Julie Soderlund, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman. Soderlund said Davies will serve as the “point person” for judicial applications. The job pays $60,000 and does not require Senate confirmation. Davies’ appointment ends months of speculation about the governor’s plan for handling judicial selection. Close observers of the selection process say the choice underscores Schwarzenegger’s preference for moderate Republicans from the Wilson era. Those familiar with Davies say he brings experience, but not an agenda. “I would say if there is an art to picking judges, John is a virtuoso,” said Eric George, who, like Davies, is on a committee that advises the Bush administration on federal judicial picks. “He’s discreet, thorough and objective and has an excellent understanding of the qualities of a good judge,” said Daniel Kolkey, a former appellate court judge who was also Wilson’s legal affairs secretary. Since leaving government service, Davies has been of counsel in the San Diego office of Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory. He was a partner for 17 years at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he practiced real estate and probate law. He helped Wilson with federal judicial picks from 1983 to 1990, when Wilson was a U.S. senator, and did the same for U.S. Sen. John Seymour from 1991 to 1992. He is also a former regent of the University of California. Davies referred calls about the appointment to the governor’s office. But in an interview last month, he said his work for Wilson involved long days reviewing judicial candidates. He described a rigorous process of review, involving local bar associations and special advisory boards established by the governor, as well as the required investigation by the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission. Only then did candidates get an interview with the governor’s staff — usually with Davies himself. “I would interview them if I thought there was a good chance I would recommend them to the governor,” said Davies, who estimated spending about 90 minutes one-on-one with judicial candidates. “He’s highly respected,” said state Sen. Charles Poochigian, from Fresno, who served as appointments secretary during Wilson’s first term. The job requires “knowing a broad cross section of the state bench and bar,” Poochigian said, adding that Davies “certainly has that qualification.” Wilson appointed about 500 judges while he was governor. Davies was involved in the appointment of perhaps half of those, including the nominations of Ronald George as chief justice, and Ming Chin and Janice Rogers Brown as Supreme Court justices. Eric George, a partner at Browne & Woods in Beverly Hills, described a typical Davies selection as having “good common sense, in addition to academic qualifications, someone with a breadth of experience, people who had prosecutorial experience, but also private experience.” Bob Stern, of the Center for Governmental Studies, predicted that with Davies’ help, Schwarzenegger would appoint “conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans.” In other words, Stern said, “it probably won’t be much of a switch” from appointments under Gov. Gray Davis. “I think John’s work always reflected the views of the person for whom he was working,” said Kolkey. Chief Justice George praised the appointment. “He’s very energetic, very thoughtful and also has the capability of holding his cards close to his vest — and he doesn’t have any agenda except good service to the governor.”

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