California Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter, who six years ago voted against allowing same-sex couples to wed, announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to his seat on the state’s highest court this fall.
Rather than go before voters in the November 2014 general election, Baxter will conclude his current term of office and retire on January 4, 2015, after 24 years on the Supreme Court and 32 consecutive years of public service.
“I have been privileged to have such an interesting and fulfilling career in the law, serving as a deputy district attorney, in private practice, as Appointments Secretary to Governor George Deukmejian, and as an Associate Justice on the California Court of Appeal and Supreme Court,” stated Baxter, 74, in an announcement released by the court this morning (June 18). “It is a great honor to have served on the state’s high court since 1991. With three Chief Justices, twelve Associate Justices, and excellent staff, I have been able to contribute to its substantial body of opinions and case law.”
In 2008 Baxter was part of the dissenting minority in the case known as In re Marriage Cases, the 4-3 decision legalizing marriage equality in the Golden State.
That ruling was later overruled by voters when in November of 2008 they passed Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment defining marriage in California as solely between a man and a woman. In May 0f 2009 Baxter joined with the majority in the 6-1 ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Prop 8.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a 2009 article, the back-to-back marriage equality rulings sparked debate on whether to campaign against those justices who did not rule in favor of same-sex marriage.
Baxter’s decision to retire leaves his fellow justice, Kathryn Werdegar, as the lone member of the court to be on the ballot for re-election this fall. Werdegar joined both of the majority opinions that allowed same-sex marriage and upheld Prop 8.
By waiting to retire until January, Baxter is leaving it up to the next governor to replace him on the court. It is widely expected that Governor Jerry Brown will easily win re-election to an historic fourth term this November against his Republican opponent Neel Kashkari.
If he does, Brown, a Democrat, will have his third chance to reshape the state’s highest court. Five of the six current members – there is one vacancy – on the court were appointed by former Republican governors.
In 2011 Brown named Goodwin Liu to the state’s supreme court. He has yet to name a replacement for former California Supreme Court Associate Justice Joyce Kennard, a Republican appointee who retired April 5 on the 25th anniversary of her appointment.
Many expect that Brown will appoint the first out LGBT person onto the California Supreme Court, with speculation largely centered on his naming Jim Humes to one of the vacant seats. Brown’s appointment of Humes in 2011 as an associate justice of the state’s First District Court of Appeal’s Division Four marked the first time an openly gay justice was appointed to the California Court of Appeals.
The San Francisco resident had been a close aide to Brown, serving as the governor’s executive secretary for administration, legal affairs, and policy. Prior to that Humes had served as the chief deputy in the attorney general’s office when Brown served as California’s attorney general from 2007 to 2011.