by Photo by Sarah Berjan

The San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association honored Justice Patricia Guerrero, California's first Latina Supreme Court Justice, during its 13th annual Judiciary Reception, following her nomination as Chief Justice. 

San Diego’s legal community and elected officials gathered on Saturday to honor Justice Patricia Guerrero for her historic accomplishments, and to continue promoting diversity on both the bench and bar. Justice Guerrero is the First Latina to serve the state’s highest court and is nominated to fill the vacant seat as Chief Justice of California. 

Justice Guerrero was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court on March 22, following her appointment by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Before her appointment to the California Supreme Court, she served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court on the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division one, where she was appointed in November 2017 by former Gov. Jerry Brown. 

She previously served as a San Diego Superior Court judge following her appointment in June 2013. She served as the supervising judge for the Family Law division before her elevation to the Court of Appeal. 

On August 10, 2022, Gov. Newsom nominated Justice Patricia Guerrero to serve as the next California Chief Justice to succeed current Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who announced she will not seek re-election after 12 years as chief justice and 38 years of public service. 

If elected by voters at the Nov. 8 general election, she would be the first Latina to serve as Chief Justice of California.

During the event, Justice Guerrero said she felt “humbled and honored” to receive recognition from the San Diego La Raza Lawyer’s Association, but shifted the collective attention to two other events. 

With the undivided attention of more than one hundred attendees, Justice Guerrero highlighted the year 1979, when San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association was formed “with really just a handful of Latino attorneys,” Guerrero said. 

Since then, the organization has reached a membership of over 300 Latino Lawyers who practice law in San Diego County. The organization is now one of 18 affiliate associations that serve several thousands of Latino Lawyers in California, according to Justice Guerrero. 

“You’ve come a long way since 1979, and you should be proud,” Justice Guerrero noted. “It is also important to remember that more work still needs to be done.” 

Recent statistics from the State Bar of California show that Latinos represent about 6 percent of licensed attorneys despite making up about 36% of the State’s population. 

Justice Guerrero highlighted the year 1982 to recognize the late Justice Cruz Reynoso, the first Latino to serve on California’s highest court. Citing remarks by Secretary Luis Céspedes, Justice Guerero said late Justice Reyno “lived a life of Humility, empathy, courage, intelligence and an unwavering commitment to judicial independence, which is the cornerstone of democracy, and justice for all”.  

“I was just 10 years old when Justice Reynoso was appointed, and I would have never dreamed someone like me from such humble beginnings, could stand in front of you accepting this recognition,” Justice Guerrero said. 

Justice Guerrero is a native of Imperial Valley raised by immigrant parents from Mexico. She began working in a grocery store at 16 years old and graduated as a co-valedictorian in high school. She continued working to help pay for her education while attending the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford Law School, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree.

Justice Guerrero was active in the Latino Law Students Association and helped fellow students at the recruitment and retention center.

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, Justice Guerrero has contributed many hours of pro bono work, including as a member of the Advisory Board of the Immigration Justice Project, to promote due process and access to justice at all levels of the immigration and appellate court system. 

She has assisted clients on a pro-bono basis in immigration matters, including asylum applications and protecting vulnerable families by litigating compliance with fair housing laws.

Justice Guerrero chaired the State Bar's Blue Ribbon Commission on the future of the Bar Exam as a justice on the Fourth District Court of Appeal and chaired the Judicial Council of California Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions. She has also been active in the Chief’s “Judges in the Classroom” civics program.

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