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High Court Appointee Is Ready To Wonk

Publication Date: 
July 25, 2014
The Recorder
Maria Zilberman

The Recorder quotes Professors Hank Greely, Vivek Wadhwa, and Jane Schacter, along with former Dean Kathleen Sullivan, on the nomination of Professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar to the California Supreme Court.

With Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Gov. Jerry Brown has placed another young, progressive academic on the California Supreme Court.

But though Cuéllar's profile bears similarities with Brown's 2011 court pick of Goodwin Liu, Cuéllar bears his own distinction as the court's first justice to come out of modern Silicon Valley. He may not have the résumé of a tech executive, but the Palo Alto denizen swims in those waters as a professor at Stanford University whose passions and scholarship run as much toward policy and societal issues as pure legal pursuits.


Even so, those who know Cuéllar expect his work in government and academia to inform his views."He has a very good understanding of the real world, and how the law on the books translates into the law in action," said Hank Greely, a professor at Stanford Law School. "That I think is very useful for a judge—to have a sense not just of how to read and interpret the precedents, but what the results are likely to do to the state and the people in the state."

Kathleen Sullivan, the former dean of Stanford Law and a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said Cuéllar combines "deep legal expertise and wide ranging empirical and public-policy expertise."

"He won't be a think-tank kind of justice," Sullivan said. "He will combine his deep interest in the practical consequences of his decision with his deep commitment to justice, equity and fairness."


Stanford Law professor Vivek Wadhwa said Cuéllar has shown concern not just for the human toll of restrictive immigration policies, but about the economic toll on Silicon Valley and industry.


When he participates in faculty workshops, Cuéllar is a thorough listener who pushes to see all sides of the argument, said Jane Schacter, a constitutional law professor at Stanford.

"He'll always go the extra mile to make sure he sees it from that person's perspective before offering constructive suggestions," she said.