Governor Jerry Brown’s fourth and final nominee for the California Supreme Court, Joshua Groban, has been confirmed by the state’s judicial appointments commission.
The commission—Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and First District Court of Appeal Justice Anthony Kline—voted unanimously to confirm Groban early Friday afternoon.
Groban plans to take his oath of office from the governor Jan. 3, in time to be seated for the court’s January calendar.
Groban has worked for Brown since 2010 when he started as chief legal adviser to the governor’s campaign. Within the Brown administration, Groban has had a lead role in recruiting and vetting about 600 trial court and appellate court nominees. At the confirmation hearing that preceded the commission’s vote, witnesses highlighted Groban’s efforts at recruiting and nominating judges to reflect the state’s diverse population.
First District Court of Appeal Associate Justice Therese Stewart, who was appointed to the bench during Brown’s tenure, said Groban “proactively reached out” to bar groups representing women, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and LGBTQ lawyers. “He was not content to just review applications of the people who applied to the bench in the hopes that there would be an adequately diverse body of candidates,” Stewart said. “He took the mystery for them out of that black box” of the judicial nomination process.
Groban will join three other Brown appointees he helped bring to the bench—Associate Justices Goodwin Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Leondra Kruger—meaning Brown’s appointees will constitute a majority of the seven-justice bench. Like Brown’s most recent appointments to the Supreme Court, Groban has no judicial experience. That lack of prior trial court experience led Justice Kline to ask multiple witnesses testifying on Groban’s behalf to address concerns judges and practitioners might have about the lack of judicial experience.
Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeal’s Division Six said that Groban has a history of seeking out diverse views and connecting with other.
“In fact, he brings some practical experience as a practicing lawyer,” Gilbert said. “He has appeared in front of judges many times, and he has written opinions and helped write opinions for the federal judge he was clerking for.”
Before joining Brown’s administration, Groban was a litigator at Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles from 2005 to 2010 and an attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison between 1999 and 2005. He clerked for U.S. District Judge William Conner of the Southern District of New York from 1998 to 1999.
Speaking on his own behalf Friday, Groban noted that the California justices with trial court experience—Cantil-Sakauye, and Justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan—have nearly 90 years of combined judicial experience among them.
“I think each of the justices of the court in a collaborative process provide their own unique background and experience and point of view, and for some of them, it is incredibly valuable judicial experience,” Groban said. “For others, it is experience in the solicitor general’s office or in academia. For me, I hope it is experience in private practice and as an adviser to a governor.”