March 9, 2017

Justice Kathryn Werdegar retiring after nearly 23-year Supreme Court career

Saying that “it has been a great privilege and honor to serve the people of California,” Justice Kathryn Werdegar announced that she is ending her nearly 23-year career as a Supreme Court justice.  (See reports in the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, Daily Journal [subscription], and The Recorder [subscription].)  In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Justice Werdegar said, “I have had the privilege of serving with three outstanding Chief Justices and many wonderful colleagues, and the opportunity to address some of the state’s most challenging issues.”  Her retirement will be effective August 31.

The last of the Chief Justices with whom Justice Werdegar served — current Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye — praised the retiring jurist as “a respected jurist and a valued colleague.”  Former Chief Justice Ronald George singled out “her meticulous work in crafting the opinions that she authored for the court and those that she wrote separately, as well as the contributions that she made to the work of her fellow justices.”

Justice Werdegar has served the longest of all the current Supreme Court justices.  However, her tenure on the court is less than half of her 55-year career in public service.  In addition to her high court service, Justice Werdegar was on the Court of Appeal, a senior staff attorney to Supreme Court Justice Edward Panelli (whom she would eventually replace on the court), a Court of Appeal staff attorney, a dean and professor at University of San Francisco School of Law, and an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Although she finished her studies at George Washington University, she was first in her class at the University of California School of Law (Boalt Hall) and was the first woman to be elected editor-in-chief of the California Law Review.

Justice Werdegar won reelection to a new 12-year term in 2014.  The governor’s appointment to succeed her, if confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments and by the voters in 2018 (assuming the appointment is confirmed before the middle of August 2018), will inherit the remainder of that term.

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