Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday refused to say when he intends to fill a state Supreme Court vacancy or why he’s taken so long to name a replacement for Associate Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar.
Meeting with reporters in a post-election press conference in Sacramento, Brown said he’s “taking his time” finding the right candidate for the high court, a phrase he’s used repeatedly when asked about the post that has been empty since Sept. 1, 2017.
“I find I never regret an appointment I didn’t make,” Brown said.
Asked if he was waiting for a potential appointment to finish a job or a term in office, Brown said, “I can’t give you anything, not even a scintilla, because it’s not your business.”
Whom Brown might pick for his fourth appointment to the California Supreme Court and why he’s waited—Werdegar announced her impending retirement in March 2017—has become a favorite, albeit mysterious, parlor game around the Capitol. At first, some thought the delay was meant to shield the nominee from having to appear on the November ballot. But the deadline for placing candidates on the ballot came and went on Aug. 30.
Others thought Brown was focused on the election and ensuring that Proposition 6, a measure to overturn a road-construction-funding gas tax, was defeated at the ballot box. But Brown still has not signalled that a pick is imminent. His term in office ends Jan. 7.
A parade of appellate court justices have served pro tem on the high court since Werdegar’s departure. At least one of them, Third District Court of Appeal Justice Ronald Robie, has appeared on the bench three times in less than a year, according to Horvitz & Levy partner David Ettinger.
Brown on Wednesday called the pro-tem replacement process “very fair because you’ve given courts of appeal judges tryouts, and they get to go up there and sit [on the Supreme Court] and rule on a couple of cases. They find it a very rewarding experience, the court of appeals justices that I’ve talked to.”
Asked if the practice unfairly burdened courts of appeals, which temporarily lose a justice to Supreme Court work, Brown shrugged. “Some appellate courts work a lot faster than others,” he said.