Two out California appeals court justice nominees sailed through their confirmation hearings this morning, marking two historic LGBT milestones for the state’s appellate courts.
San Francisco resident James M. Humes, 54, took his oath of office to become the presiding justice of the First District Court of Appeal’s Division One immediately after being unanimously confirmed by the state’s Commission on Judicial Appointments. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James J. Marchiano.
His swearing-in marks the first time an out justice has presided over an appellate court division in the Golden State. The gay longtime aide to Governor Jerry Brown was first named to the appellate court in 2012 by his former boss.
“I know I am new to the bench and I know I have a lot more to learn,” said Humes. “I will work hard to make sure Division One continues on its current course to provide justice fairly and in a timely manner.”
Two hours later the judicial appointments commission confirmed Therese M. Stewart to a seat on Division Two of the First District Court of Appeal. It marks the first time an out lesbian has been named to the appellate bench.
Over Pride weekend in late June Brown nominated Stewart to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James R. Lambden. Stewart, 57, of San Francisco, will take her oath of office in mid August.
She has served as chief deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office since 2002 and is best known for litigating the state’s marriage equality lawsuits that secured marriage rights for same-sex couples, first at the state level in 2008 and then in 2013 as part of the federal litigation.
“I am grateful, honored, excited,” Stewart said. “I am also daunted by the governor’s decision to appoint me to the Court of Appeals.”
Her stepmother Hope Stewart, who lives in Petaluma, attended the July 17 hearing and told the Bay Area Reporter it was a “proud” day for her.
“Such a well deserved appointment,” she said. “I am delighted the world recognizes Terry’s talents.”
Stewart’s wife, Carole Scagnetti, told the B.A.R. she was also “very proud of Terry.” Her becoming a judge, she added, “I think it is the logical next step. She is a brilliant constitutional attorney, a good listener, and has good judgment.”
The State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation rated Humes and Stewart as both “exceptionally well qualified,” its highest rating, when they reviewed their nominations. The outstanding recommendations were echoed by the members of the appointments commission.
Noting Humes had spent time in Colorado prior to moving to California, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said the state “is a much better place having you come here.”
J. Anthony Kline, who has long been friends with Stewart, is the acting presiding justice for Division Two. He admitted in court that he had questioned Stewart if she was prepared to go from being an advocate before the court to having to decide cases as a judge.
“When you told me you were interested in an appointment, I tried to talk you out of it,” he said.
He also divulged that he had a chance to speak with her opponent in the federal marriage lawsuit, Charles Cooper, a month ago and mentioned Stewart’s being up for a judgeship.
“You were a fierce advocate he told me,” recounted Kline. “I almost suggested you call him to serve as a witness today on your behalf.”
Acknowledging that she lacks criminal experience in her legal career, Stewart nonetheless said she was up for the challenge and ready to learn from judges on the trial courts or with criminal expertise.
“I am eager to do it. I know it will be a challenge but something I will eagerly embrace,” she said. “At the city attorney’s office there was no dearth of breadth of the many things that came before us.”