How old does one have to be to decide the law or impart wisdom to others? This is an interesting question. A truism is that when someone is appointed to be a judge at a young age they can expect to serve for many years. Justice Joseph Story was the youngest at 32 when President Madison nominated him to the United States Supreme Court, but that was in 1812. He ranks 9th out of 112 jurists in terms of length of service on the court. At the time, life expectancy was only 40 years, so he was not expected to live to see 65, which he did. The newest addition to the California high court, Leondra Kruger, a Pasadena native, by comparison would expect to live another 44 years, well exceeding Story's tenure. It is also conceivable that Ms. Kruger will eventually be tapped to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Demographically she would be a great pick by any future Democratic President because she is young, female and African-American.
This is a youthful court now. Ms. Kruger is 38, the recently confirmed Justice Cuellar is 42, and Justice Lui the senior Justice of the group is an ancient 44. As the San Jose Mercury News put it, these new justices are “bringing down the court's average age by decades.”
Ms. Kruger has had a distinguished if short career. She graduated from Harvard and then attended Yale Law School where she served as Editor in Chief of the Law Review. After law school, she clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens. Part of her professional career included a stint at the Solicitor General's Office where she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court 12 times.
This last pick by Governor Brown adds to the liberal wall that has now been created by his picks of Cuellar and Lui. With Justice Werdeger and sometimes Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye voting progressively, expect California law to be interpreted more favorable toward consumers, employees and criminal defendants. If they will knock heads with the United States Supreme Court remains to be seen. What is clear is that we are seeing a generational and ideological shift in the California Supreme Court.