UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu was nominated Tuesday for the California Supreme Court, just two months after criticism by Republicans led him to withdraw his candidacy for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second-highest court in the country.

In making the nomination, Gov. Jerry Brown called Liu "an extraordinary man and a distinguished legal scholar."

It was Brown's first judicial nomination since taking office in January. Liu would replace Carlos Moreno, who stepped down in February to go into private practice.

"Gov. Brown is to be commended for this visionary and truly meritorious appointment," said Moreno, who works for a Los Angeles law firm.

Liu, 40, previously was President Barack Obama's choice for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But that nomination was blocked by Republicans, who objected to Liu's written positions and said he was too inexperienced for the post. Liu withdrew his candidacy in May.

"I'm deeply honored by Gov. Brown's nomination and look forward to the opportunity to serve the people of California on our state's highest court," Liu said in a prepared statement. He declined an interview request made Tuesday by The Associated Press.

A school spokeswoman said Liu was vacationing in Maine.

Liu was born in Georgia and grew up in Sacramento, where he attended public schools.

He graduated from Yale Law School in 1998 after attending Stanford University as an undergraduate. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and worked as an appellate litigator in Washington before joining the UC Berkeley faculty in 2003.

Liu is the son of Taiwanese immigrants and would become the fourth serving justice of Asian descent if confirmed for the state Supreme Court.

Moreno was the only Latino on the court and influential Latino legal groups had urged Brown to nominate another to the high court.

The State Bar's Commission of Judicial Nominees Evaluation will first consider the nomination of Liu and make a non-binding recommendation to the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein.

The judicial appointments commission will then schedule at least one public hearing. Liu must be confirmed by the commission.

Brown previously appointed three others to the high court when he first served as governor from 1975 to 1983. Those moves included naming Rose Bird as the state's first female chief justice. Voters in 1986 unseated Bird and the other two appointees -- Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin -- over their anti-death penalty stances.

Roughly three dozen other vacancies remain in the trial and appellate courts, awaiting action by Brown.