SAN FRANCISCO — California Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter announced Wednesday that he will retire after serving more than 24 years, possibly giving Gov. Jerry Brown a significant hand in reshaping a high court that has leaned right politically for decades.
Baxter said that that he would not stand for re-election in November and will step down when his term expires in January. State Supreme Court justices face a “retention” election every 12 years.
The 74-year-old Fresno County native is considered one of the most politically conservative members of the court. He was a reliable vote in upholding death penalties and signed on to the 4-3 dissent of then-Chief Justice Ronald George’s opinion striking down California’s gay marriage ban in 2008.
If Brown is re-elected in November, the Democratic governor will be faced with the third vacancy on the seven-member court.
Baxter said he wanted to spend more time with his wife of 51 years and the rest of his family.
“I will miss his sage advice and counsel,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said.
Baxter’s announcement follows the retirement earlier this year of Justice Joyce Kennard, who Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to replace.
Brown earlier appointed Justice Goodwin Liu, a former law professor, to fill the vacancy left by Justice Carlos Moreno.
Republican Gov. George Deukmejian nominated Baxter to the Supreme Court in 1990. Voters confirmed him to a second 12-year term in 2002.
Baxter attended Fresno State University and Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.