The former East Bay judge was installed as California’s first lesbian Supreme Court justice

By DON THOMPSON | Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Two days after voters admitted Patricia Guerrero as California’s first Supreme Court justice in January, a state panel on Thursday confirmed Kelli Evans as the Supreme Court’s first openly lesbian judge.

The movements mark the last dominoes to fall after Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced in July that she would step down in January.

That gave Gov. Gavin Newsom his third opportunity to appoint a judge to the seven-member Supreme Court.

Newsom, a Democrat who was easily re-elected on Tuesday, named Guerrero to head the country’s largest judicial system for the first time, just months after he appointed her to the state Supreme Court.

On the same day, he announced that he would nominate Evans to take her place.

Evans was admitted Thursday by the Judicial Appointments Commission, composed of Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Judge Manuel Ramirez, the senior chairman of the state Circuit Court of Appeals.

Evans, who was joined by many members of her family and friends, dedicated the day to her grandmother who raised her and to whom she credits for becoming a lawyer, judge and now a judge.

“I think my grandmother would have understood just as I did that the law is so much more than an esoteric exercise in an ivory tower. What is the essence of the law? It’s about real people and real communities,” she said.

The Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation rated Evans as “well qualified,” a rare notch below the top rating of “exceptionally well qualified.” The prosecution commission did not explain her lower rank, but nevertheless concluded that Evans “will make an excellent Associate Justice.”

Evans has only been a judge of the Alameda County Superior Court since last year. She was previously Newsom’s assistant general secretary for legal affairs, where his office said she helped him shape a moratorium on the death penalty that Newsom enacted in 2019.

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