California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno Speaks at King Hall
Justice Carlos R. Moreno of the California Supreme Court visited King Hall March 31 as part of La Raza Law Students Association César Chávez Week celebration, sharing thoughts on his journey as a pioneering Latino in the judiciary and his work as a member of California's highest court.
Moreno described his background as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother who arrived in the country with few skills and no resources after the death of his father. Like many of the students in attendance, Moreno noted, he grew up in a home where Spanish was the first language and where no family member had an education beyond high school.
Moreno went to Yale University for college and got J.D. degree at Stanford Law School, and went on to a spectacular career in law, working for the Los Angeles District Attorney and then joining the Mori & Ota law firm for seven years before being appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Municipal Court, Compton Judicial District, in 1986. He was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1993 by Governor Pete Wilson, then chosen by President Bill Clinton to serve in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in 1998, receiving a rare unanimous confirmation from Congress. In 2001, Governor Gray Davis nominated him for the Supreme Court of California, where he still serves.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought that I could become one of seven judges on the highest court in the state, " he said. "I want to emphasize to you the idea that no matter what your dreams may be, you can follow them."
Moreno talked at length about the challenges of his work as a judge and the need to "use legal principles and doctrines that we'll be proud of and that will stand the test of time," despite contemporary controversies. Pointing to Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order sending Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II, Moreno noted that our courts have not always lived up to this responsibility. Moreno said he thinks about how posterity will judge the California Supreme Court's decisions on the death penalty, the right to marry, and other controversial issues.
"I ask myself as a judge: will the justice we render today be the kind of justice that will endure for generations, or will it become another Dred Scott or Korematsu?" he said.
The Justice also took several questions from the student audience and remarked on his experiences as a Latino in law school, his thoughts on the election of judges, and other topics.