Stanford law professor nominated for state Supreme Court

Governor Brown selects Mexican-born Democrat with White House experience

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Mexican-born Stanford Law School professor and former White House official, has been nominated for the California Supreme Court, Governor Jerry Brown's office announced Tuesday.

Cuéllar, 41, also a Stanford graduate, is currently the director of and a senior fellow at the university's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He joined the Stanford faculty in 2001. His teaching and research focus on administrative law and governance, public organizations, and transnational security, according to his law school biography.

Cuéllar has also worked in the White House in a range of positions, serving in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. He is a Democrat.

"Tino Cuéllar is a renowned scholar who has served two presidents and made significant contributions to both political science and the law," Brown said in a statement. "His vast knowledge and even temperament will – without question – add further luster to our highest court."

During former President Bill Clinton's second term, Cuéllar worked in the U.S. Department of the Treasury as senior adviser to the Under Secretary for Enforcement, an office that oversees treasury policy, enforcement and regulation.

From 2009 to 2010, Cuéllar served as special assistant to the president for justice and regulatory policy, according to his biography. Among other issues, Cuéllar worked on improving food-safety standards, public-health agencies, law enforcement and sentencing policy, regulatory transparency, immigration and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Before working at the White House, he co-chaired the Obama-Biden Immigration Policy Working Group, which was charged with developing policy proposals and plans for legislative and executive action on immigration reform.

In July 2010, Obama appointed Cuéllar to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent agency charged with improving the efficiency and fairness of federal regulatory programs, according to his biography. From 2011 to early 2013, he also co-chaired the Department of Education's Equity and Excellence Commission. He is a board member of the American Constitution Society as well as the Constitution Project, a nonprofit think tank that builds bipartisan consensus on constitutional and legal issues.

Cuéllar was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and reportedly walked across the Mexico-U.S. border every day to attend school in Texas. After graduating from Calexico High School in California's Imperial Valley, he went to Harvard University, receiving a bachelor's degree magna cum laude. He also received a law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford. He clerked for Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and is a member of the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations.

"I am enormously honored by Governor Brown's nomination, and if confirmed, I look forward to serving the people of California on our state's highest court," Cuéllar said in a statement.

Cuéllar is married to U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh of the Northern District of California. They have two children.

If confirmed, he will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Justice Marvin Baxter in January. Cuéllar will be paid $225,342 a year, according to the governor's office.

The governor's nomination must be submitted to the State Bar's Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, according to a statement. The Commission on Judicial Appointments consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal Joan Dempsey Klein. If confirmed by the Commission, Cuéllar's nomination will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot for voter approval.

Read a Weekly interview with Cuéllar from April 2013.


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