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Calling him a “consensus builder” and a “pillar in his community,” California Gov. Gray Davis on Wednesday appointed U.S. District Judge Carlos Moreno to the state supreme court. The 52-year-old Moreno, who has been on the federal bench in Los Angeles since 1998, becomes the first Hispanic judge on the high court in 12 years and only the third in its nearly 150-year history. But Davis rejected any notion that Moreno’s ethnicity had anything to do with his selection, noting that he was the only one of the four nominees for the position that had gotten the highest rating possible from the State Bar’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission. In fact, Davis said, all 29 members of the commission had rated Moreno as exceptionally well qualified. “In baseball parlance,” the governor said, “that would be the equivalent of pitching a perfect game.” Moreno’s selection was hardly surprising. Political observers have had him pegged as the top choice all along. But Davis did surprise some Wednesday by also announcing the appointments of Richard Mosk, the son of deceased California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, and L.A. County Superior Court Judge Dennis Perluss, one of four candidates for the supreme court slot, to L.A.’s 2nd District Court of Appeal. Moreno is the first Latino on the California Supreme Court since Justice John Arguelles departed in 1989. The only other Hispanic on the court was Justice Cruz Reynoso, whom voters booted out of office along with Chief Justice Rose Bird in the 1986 election. Hispanic groups had lobbied hard for Moreno’s appointment and were well represented at Wednesday’s press conference. Luis Rodriguez, president of the Mexican American Bar Association of Los Angeles County, said afterward that Davis had kept a promise that the high court would represent the diversity of California, while Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, said the governor had a good eye for legal excellence and diversity. Rodriguez said the governor also made clear that Moreno was not a “quota” choice — “that, in fact, he is an individual who is extremely well qualified and just happens to be Latino.” Polanco predicted Moreno will fit in well on the court even though he will be the only Democrat. But he said Moreno will bring new ideas. “He’ll shed a whole new light on issues that might not be present,” Polanco said. Political ideologies should be no problem for Moreno. He was appointed to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court bench in 1986 by Republican Gov. George Deukmejian and was elevated to the superior court by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in 1993. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton and was confirmed by the Senate 96-0. On Wednesday, Moreno thanked Davis for appointing him and vowed to represent the court “in a conscientious, fair and dignified manner.” He also said the governor’s action shows that Americans’ dreams can come true. “Certainly,” he said, “my dreams have come true today.” Moreno briefly addressed the audience in Spanish. His wife, Christine, a professor at East Los Angeles College, his daughter Keiko, 24, and son Nicholas, 15, hugged him afterward. Nicholas videotaped the whole affair. Davis summed up the significance of the event by invoking the memory of Stanley Mosk, who died June 19 after 37 years on the California Supreme Court bench. “This is not just any vacancy,” he said. “It’s a vacancy created by a true legal giant, Stanley Mosk. Replacing him is not easy. In Judge Carlos Moreno,” he added, “I have found the right judge for the job.” Moreno still must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of Chief Justice Ronald George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and 2nd District Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, the state’s senior appeal court presiding justice. A confirmation hearing for Moreno has been set for 1 p.m. Oct. 17 in San Francisco. Hearings for Perluss and Richard Mosk have been tentatively set for 10 a.m. Oct. 22 in Los Angeles. Perluss, 53, was named by Davis as one of the four contenders for the high court position, along with Ventura-based 2nd District Justice Steven Perren and 5th District Justice Dennis Cornell of Fresno. Perluss, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was appointed to the L.A. County Superior Court in 1999. He’ll fill the vacancy left on the 2nd District by the retirement of Justice Richard Neal. From 1975-99, he practiced law with the firms of Hufstedler & Kaus and Morrison & Foerster. He also served as deputy general counsel to the Christopher Commission and was president of the Barristers of the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 1980-81. Besides being the son of Stanley Mosk, Richard Mosk, 62, was appointed by the Clinton administration in 1997 to serve as a judge on the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague. He had served on the same tribunal under Ronald Reagan in the early ’80s. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Mosk frequently serves as an arbitrator in cases worldwide involving major governmental and private parties. He has experience in complex civil litigation, including sports and entertainment law, as well as trade regulation, environmental law and labor matters. From 1994-2000 he was chairman of the Motion Picture Association Classification and Rating Administration, which rates all movies. Mosk has practiced law with the Los Angeles firms of Mitchell, Silverberg & Knupp and Sanders, Barnet, Goldman, Simons & Mosk. He fills the vacancy left by the death of 2nd District Justice Ramona Godoy Perez. Both Perluss and Mosk will be paid $152,260 a year. Moreno, who becomes the 111th justice in the high court’s history, will get $162,409. To the disappointment of the large press crowd in the governor’s briefing office in the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in downtown L.A., neither Davis nor Moreno took questions. “That’s always been the tradition with judicial appointments,” a spokesman for the governor said beforehand. “It’s a tradition nationally, and it’s the tradition in California.” Which isn’t quite true. Justice Ming Chin took questions at the ceremony where he was named to the court by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996. He told reporters he supported the death penalty, and then, when asked a question about abortion rights, said he “happened to believe that it’s the woman’s right to choose.” At his confirmation hearing — normally staid affairs — several speakers denounced Chin on that basis. Though Moreno took no questions Wednesday, Hispanic leaders on hand for the ceremony made it clear they were relieved Moreno got the nod. Rodriguez, of the Mexican American Bar Association, said that given the fact there are qualified Latino candidates and that Latinos comprise a major portion of California’s population — about 30 percent — any other choice would have been “extremely disappointing.” Davis staffers said Wednesday that they believe Moreno, who grew up in East L.A., will rent an apartment in the San Francisco area, where the court’s primary chambers and courtroom are located. His primary residence will remain in Los Angeles, where his son is still in high school.

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