In advance of this Thursday’s Commission on Judicial Appointments hearing on Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation has rated Evans as “well qualified for service on the California Supreme Court.” A JNE evaluation of a “potential” appointee’s “judicial qualifications” is a statutory requirement.
“Well qualified” is second to “exceptionally well qualified” and higher than “qualified” and “not qualified” on the JNE rating scale. The “well qualified” rating means the JNE Commission believes Judge Evans “[p]ossess[es] qualities and attributes indicative of a superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness.” The JNE report doesn’t explain why an “exceptionally well qualified” rating was not given even though the report predicts “that Judge Evans will make an outstanding Associate Justice.”
It’s been a while since any Supreme Court appointee or nominee (yes, there’s a difference between the two, but not one worth bothering about now) has received less than an “exceptionally well qualified” JNE rating. Justices Patricia Guerrero (twice: here and here), Martin Jenkins, Joshua Groban, Leondra Kruger, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Goodwin Liu, and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye all got the top rating. Justice Janice Rogers Brown’s 1996 appointment to the Supreme Court was confirmed despite a “not qualified” rating. (See here.) I don’t know if any justices after Brown have received below the best JNE rating.
In addition to the JNE report, the Attorney General’s office has prepared a detailed memorandum on Judge Evans. Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and senior Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez, sits on the CJA that will pass on Judge Evans’s appointment.
The JNE report and AG memorandum, and other documents relevant to Thursday’s hearing, are here. Those other documents include supporting letters and one opposition letter.
If, as is most likely, Judge Evans is confirmed this week, she will not join the court for two months. This is because she will be taking Justice Guerrero’s seat and Justice Guerrero’s term doesn’t expire until January 2. Of course, if, as is also likely, Justice Guerrero wins her election tomorrow, she will remain on the court in January as California’s new Chief Justice.