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Newest California Supreme Court judge is the first Latina in the role

Justice Patricia Guerrero was sworn in as the newest judge of California's Supreme Court Monday, becoming the first Latina woman in the role.
Office of Governor Gavin Newsom
Justice Patricia Guerrero was sworn in as the newest judge of California's Supreme Court Monday, becoming the first Latina woman in the role.

Updated March 30, 2022 at 7:12 AM ET

California has sworn in a new judge to its Supreme Court, and she's making history by becoming the first Latina in the role.

Justice Patricia Guerrero has been an associate justice in California's 4th District Court of Appeal, a Superior Court judge, a law partner and a federal prosecutor.

"I'm incredibly honored to take the bench on our state's Supreme Court, and I thank everyone who has made this day possible," Guerrero said in a statement. "I am here because of the courage, sacrifices and dedication of my parents and my grandparents who, like so many others, came to this country with the hope of a brighter future for their children."

Guerrero's swearing in is a significant move in California. As the country's most populous state and where nearly 2 in 5 residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, California is situated in the country's debate on immigration.

She was joined by her father, sister, husband and two sons during her swearing in ceremony Monday. Guerrero moved to California when her parents immigrated to the Imperial Valley region from Mexico.

Guerrero went on to get her bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley and her law degree from Stanford Law School in 1997.

After graduating, she was an associate at Latham and Watkins LLP before joining the Southern District of California's U.S. Attorney's Office as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2002 to 2003.

She returned to Latham and Watkins as an associate and was promoted to partner in 2007.

In 2013, Guerrero was appointed a judgeship in the San Diego Superior Court, where she oversaw the family law division. In 2017, she was appointed to California's Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, where she wrote several opinions defending consumer and constitutional rights.

"This is a proud day for all Californians," said California Governor Gavin Newsom. "A first-generation Californian and daughter of the Imperial Valley, Justice Guerrero's extraordinary ascent to serve as the first Latina justice on our state's highest court is not only an incredible personal achievement, it is an inspiring example of California's enduring promise that any dream is possible, no matter who you are or where you come from."

Guerrero has done hours of pro bono work in immigration courts, assisting clients with asylum applications and ensuring fair housing laws are complied with.

She is replacing Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who left the bench in October 2021.

"Your appointment is a testimony to not only your extraordinary judicial career, but also to your devotion and commitment to the citizens of California and their access to justice," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor told Guerrero.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 30, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the level of appellate court that Patricia Guerrero served on as a justice. Before being sworn in on the California state Supreme Court, Guerrero served as an associate justice on California's 4th District Court of Appeal.
Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]