Like his last state Supreme Court appointee, one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest appellate court nominees is a young Obama administration lawyer with no judicial experience. The current pick, Lamar Baker, is stirring up a certain amount of controversy.
Brown named Baker, 37, to one of three vacancies on the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles last month. Baker, a Bay Area native and like Brown a Yale Law School graduate, practiced law in Southern California from 2002 to 2005, then spent five years as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles before joining the Obama administration. He moved up the ranks to become chief of staff in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, then joined the White House counsel’s office in 2013 and has served as special assistant and associate counsel to the president for the last year.
Baker might be an unusual choice for other governors but not for Brown, whose three current state Supreme Court appointees had never previously served as judges. The most recent, Justice Leondra Kruger, was a 38-year-old attorney in Obama’s Justice Department with a sparkling reputation but no judicial record before Brown swore her into office in January.
Baker faces a confirmation hearing July 23 before the Commission on Judicial Appointments, whose members include Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Attorney General Kamala Harris. The third member, Paul Turner, the Second District’s senior presiding justice, told the Los Angeles Daily Journal last week that he hadn’t decided whether to support Baker.
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