Judciary

Three years later, Goodwin Liu not the left-wing extremist he once seemed, California lawyers say


While Republican U.S. senators feared that 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Goodwin Liu would be a left-wing extremist, court watchers say the law professor, now a California Supreme Court justice, is actually a moderate liberal.

The only Democrat on the state supreme court, according to the Sacramento Bee, in the past year Liu has agreed with his colleagues in 80 percent of the rulings. Since Liu joined the court in 2011, it has decided 47 capital cases. In all but three cases—one of which he recused himself from—Liu voted with his colleagues. With Liu as a jurist, the California Supreme Court has affirmed 42 capital sentences.

Nominated by President Barack Obama to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit in 2010, the University of California at Berkeley law professor went through two Judiciary Committee hearings largely focused on allegations that he was an extremist. After a 52-43 senate vote rejecting cloture on the nomination, Liu in May 2011 told the president that he would withdraw his name for consideration.

A few months later, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Liu to the California Supreme Court.

“I wouldn’t call him a firebrand liberal: On the court, he just about anchors the liberal side, but that is not saying a lot because the court on the whole is rather a conservative court,” said Gerald Uelmen, a University of Santa Clara School of Law professor. “In terms of the quality of his work, I am really impressed. He displays a very independent streak. His opinions are very well-thought-out and well reasoned.”

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