August 22, 2012

Article examines Justice Goodwin Liu’s independent course since joining the Court

In an article in today’s Daily Journal [subscription required], Emily Green writes that the Court’s newest Justice, Goodwin Liu, is setting his own intellectual and jurisprudential course, having authored more concurring and dissenting opinions than any of his colleagues since he joined the Court last September. Green quotes scholars and practitioners as observing that, with his separate opinions, Liu may be laying the groundwork for a different jurisprudence on a future California Supreme Court. In this, she likens Liu to Roger Traynor, one of the most influential justices in the Court’s history, who sometimes employed his separate opinions to help shift the Court’s jurisprudence years down the road. Green is not the first to see the similarities between the youthful Liu and Traynor; he was openly compared to Traynor when Governor Brown named him to the Court. Most tellingly, perhaps, Liu made Traynor’s career the central focus of his own address to Bay Area members of the American Law Institute last year.

But Green notes that Liu has also commented on the inherent value of speaking his mind, quoting him as saying “‘it would be wrong to conclude that the best way to go about life is just to play it safe.’” Whatever Liu’s motivations for blazing his own trail, appellate practitioner Jon B. Eisenberg, who is of counsel with Horvitz & Levy LLP, seems to have gotten it right when he observed, “‘This is a judge who knows who he is and where he wants to go jurisprudentially, and he’s telling us right off the bat.’”

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