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Meet Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, the Academic Justice

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Stanford Law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar to the California Supreme Court, reported the Los Angeles Times. In January, Cuéllar will fill the seat of Justice Marvin Baxter, who will not seek reelection in November. Cuéllar has all the right bona fides to sit on California's highest court: Harvard undergraduate, Yale Law School, plus a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford. He's taught at Stanford Law School since 2001.

Cuéllar, however, has something that's unusual for a California Supreme Court justice: no judicial experience at all. Six of the seven justices on the Court came straight from a position on a Court of Appeal. Governor Brown's most recent appointment, Goodwin Liu, is the exception. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Justice Liu was a professor at Berkeley Law School and had done some work in private practice and for the U.S. Department of Education. He was the odd man out on a court composed of people who were judges already.

There are a lot of new faces on the appeals court bench.

We've already noted that Gov. Brown will have two vacancies to fill on the California Supreme Court alone. Late last month, he also addressed a number of vacancies on the state's appeals bench, with six nominees.

All six are expected to be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The Commission is headed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. The two other votes belong to Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and a senior presiding justice of the appellate court for which the candidate has been nominated, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The California Court system has been in crisis for quite some time. Years after years of budget cuts have shuttered courthouses, created hours-long lines, and delayed, if not outright denied, access to justice for many.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown released a proposed budget that would have added $100 million in funding system-wide (most of which would've gone to pension obligations) -- a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $1 billion in cuts over the last six years, or $544 million in cuts in 2012 alone. Later that month, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye released a report that outlined the carnage to the courts, noting that there is a $874.9 million budget shortfall and that an additional $260 million would be needed just to "tread water."

What's the current state of the courts? And is there help on the way?

California. This state, often derisively referred to as the "People's Republic of California," has a reputation as a wee-bit left-leaning. It might come as a surprise to some, then, that the state's high court is actually almost exclusively made up of Republican appointees, and is seen by many as a moderate to conservative court.

That might be changing soon, however, with Gov. Jerry Brown expected to nab a second term in the fall. Not only does he have a vacancy to fill from Justice Joyce Kennard's retirement last week, but there are a few other spots that could be opening up during the governor's second term.

Lots of California law updates this week with the 2014 State of the Judiciary, a retiring judge, and a review of laws, pending, passed, and interpreted. Let's jump in:

2014 State of the Judiciary

On March 17, 2014 Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye gave her 2014 State of the Judiciary Address before California judges, legislators and attorneys. The foundation of her statements rested on "fairness and collaboration" -- values that both the judiciary and legislature embody. She went on to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and discussed issues important to her including collaborative courts, self-help centers at the trial courts, JusticeCorps and juvenile justice. To read her remarks in full (or watch a video), click here for the 2014 State of the Judiciary Address.

The Golden State is home to Hollywood, and if we can learn anything from celebrities, it's that everyone's got something they want to sell you. California lawyers are no different -- well, sort of. Not quite selling things per se, as lawyers you're selling services, but you need to know a thing or two about marketing.

Legal marketing may not be high up on your "know how" or "to do" list, but that doesn't mean it's not important. It is. It just means you might need some help. Luckily for you, we're here.

Here are the top three things you should know about legal marketing.

Union disputes. Protests with picket signs. A labor complaint filed with the state. This has to be something big, some terrible labor law violation, right?

Nope. The San Francisco Superior Court simply decided to enforce its long-standing, laxly enforced 1996 dress code. No flip flops, no beach attire, and no gym clothes. Guys in ties, gals in something business-y.

While the rest of the country is covered in snow, the sun is shining in the Golden State, and legal controversies and news are going at a non-stop pace. There's a lot to talk about, here are some highlights.

Justice Joyce Kennard Retiring

Justice Joyce Kennard, Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court announced that she will retire, effective April 5, 2014, giving Governor Jerry Brown a second chance to fill a seat on the California Supreme Court, reports The Sacramento Bee. The longest-serving justice, aged 72, is seen as "one of the more liberal" Justices, "often siding with the underdog," and "one of the court's most vocal members during oral arguments," reports the Los Angeles Times.

"We are rationing justice, and it has become more than a fiscal problem. It is, in my view, it is now a civil rights problem. ... We know we are denying the protections of an American democracy."

The rhetoric, justified or not, is flowing hard after Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget plan that, despite a $105 million increase in court funding, will do little to keep our court system from teetering on collapse. (Existing pension and benefit costs will eat up most of the increase.) Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye's rhetorical flourish was accompanied by her own plan, the "A Three-Year Blueprint for a Fully Functioning Judicial Branch."

An early leak of Gov. Brown's budget proposal led to a sooner-than-expected unveiling of the plan. As with most political events, no one is happy.

Were you hoping for more funding for our beleaguered court system, either to reduce court crowding, or to add more prosecutor and public defender positions? The modest increase in the budget likely won't help.

The budget also addressed two other issues that have made their way through California courts this year: the state's ill-fated High Speed Rail project, and the prison overcrowding issue that has yet to be resolved.