SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named San Francisco appellate judge Carol Corrigan to the California Supreme Court on Friday, deciding on a moderate Republican and former prosecutor to fill the post of conservative jurist Janice Rogers Brown.
"This is the best of the best that we have in the state," Schwarzenegger said during a Capitol news conference called to introduce her.
Corrigan, 57, a Republican sitting on the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, succeeds Brown, who resigned in June after the U.S. Senate confirmed her to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.
Brown was the only black on the seven-member court, prompting speculation that Schwarzenegger would name another black to maintain the court's ethnic balance. He also was said to have closely considered Vance Raye, a black Republican sitting on the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. Corrigan is white.
Schwarzenegger said his only concern in naming a successor was finding the most qualified person and making a decision that "was best for California." He praised Corrigan as being someone of "unimpeachable character."
"She is a brilliant jurist, and for the past 12 years she has done a magnificent job on the First District Court of Appeal," he said. "Justice Corrigan is careful, thoughtful, quick-witted and brings a deliberate, detail-oriented approach to the law. She will bring honor to California's high court and serve the people with dignity and integrity."
Corrigan was a trial judge in Alameda County when she was appointed in 1994 to the appellate court by one of Schwarzenegger's political mentors, former Gov. Pete Wilson.
She served as a municipal court judge and district attorney in Alameda County, across the bay from San Francisco.
Court watchers had predicted the governor would tap Corrigan or Raye because of their party affiliation, seniority and judicial philosophies. The pressure on Schwarzenegger to name a conservative to the bench had grown in recent days, after he angered many Republicans by Susan Kennedy, a longtime Democratic activist, to be his chief of staff.
But on Friday, the governor said politics played no role in his decision to nominate Corrigan.
"That's the last concern I have," Schwarzenegger said, responding to a reporter's question. "You don't worry what is best about for the Republicans or you don't worry about anyone who is concerned about Susan Kennedy or anything like that. ... She is really the most qualified for this job."
Corrigan spoke briefly, saying the cornerstone of her judicial philosophy is that "the law doesn't belong to judges, it belongs to people."
She declined to answer a question about same-sex marriage, an issue that is likely to come before the state Supreme Court, and said the topic never arose in her conversations with Schwarzenegger.