Kathryn Werdegar

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Kathryn Werdegar
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
In office
June 3, 1994[1] – August 31, 2017 (announced)
Nominated by Pete Wilson
Preceded by Edward Panelli
Personal details
Born (1936-04-05) April 5, 1936 (age 81)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma mater UC Berkeley
George Washington University

Kathryn Mickle Werdegar (born April 5, 1936) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California. On March 8, 2017, she announced her plan to retire as of August 31, 2017.[2]

Werdegar was appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Pete Wilson in 1994. She was retained by the electorate in November 2002, with 74.1% percent of the vote.[3] She earned her B.A. with honors at the University of California, Berkeley and then attended the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) before completing her law degree at the George Washington University Law School, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class. While at Boalt Hall, Werdegar served as editor-in-chief of the California Law Review.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that Werdegar ruled in a case involving Wells Fargo & Co., a corporation in which she owned "between $100,001 and $1 million in stock." The Center reported that Werdegar "denied an appeal to a couple who accused Wells Fargo of predatory lending and unlawful foreclosure." [4]

The judge responded through California Supreme Court spokesman Cathal Conneely, the Center reported. "The justice regrets the error and thanks you for bringing it to her attention."

"The Supreme Court is reexamining its internal conflict of interest procedures to prevent similar errors in the future," Conneely said.

In 2008, Justice Werdegar joined the majority opinion in the consolidated California marriage cases known as In re Marriage Cases. The court's 4-3 ruling legalized same-sex marriage in California from June 19, 2008 – November 4, 2008. The majority ruled that sexual orientation is a protected class under the California constitution and that strict scrutiny is required to review any laws distinguishing based on such. The opinion was rooted in the Equal Protection Clause of the California constitution, one similar to the one found in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court's ruling was superseded by Proposition 8 passed by California voters. Prop 8 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional in 2010, with the lengthy appeals process concluding in June 2013.

Notable Decisions

Smith v. Fair Employment & Housing Com. (1996) 12 Cal.4th 1143: A landlord who believed that renting to an unmarried couple is sinful was not constitutionally entitled to an exemption from a California law barring housing discrimination.

People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497: California’s “Three Strikes” law did not deprive trial courts of the power to dismiss a prior conviction allegation in furtherance of justice; courts have the authority to “strike a strike.”

People v. Hill (1998) 17 Cal.4th 800: Prosecutorial misconduct over the course of a trial can have such a cumulatively prejudicial effect as to require reversing a criminal conviction.

Conservatorship of Wendland (2001) 26 Cal.4th 519: The conservator of a person who is severely impaired but conscious, and who has not left formal instructions or an appointed an agent for health care decisions, cannot withhold nutrition and hydration from the person unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence to be the person’s wish or in the person’s best interests.

Sharon S. v. Superior Court (2003) 31 Cal.4th 417: California family law allowed a second parent adoption (adoption by a nonbiological parent without change in biological parent’s rights and responsibilities) by the lesbian partner of the biological mother.

People v. Diaz (2011) 51 Cal.4th 84, 103 (dissent): The majority held police could search the contents of an arrested person’s mobile phone without a warrant, probable cause or emergency need. Justice Werdegar dissented, concluding the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court later reached the same conclusion as Justice Werdegar. (Riley v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 2473.)

Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004: Allowing a class action seeking compensation for an employer’s violation of California wage and hour law. The guarantee of breaks for meals means the employer must relieve the employee of all duties during the break period, but need not ensure that no work is actually done.

Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court (Anderson) (2016) 1 Cal.5th 783, 813 (dissent): The majority held a California court had jurisdiction over claims of personal injury from use of a prescription pharmaceutical by residents of other states who neither purchased the drug in California nor were injured in the state. Justice Werdegar dissented, concluding the absence of a significant relationship between the defendant’s activities in California and the nonresidents’ claims deprived the court of jurisdiction. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. (Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, No. 16-466, Order of Jan. 19, 2017.)


  1. ^ Bowen, Debra, Justices of the California Supreme Court (PDF), California Secretary of State, retrieved 2010-11-23 
  2. ^ Egelko, Bob (March 8, 2017). "State high court Justice Werdegar to retire". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 11, 2017. 
  3. ^ smartvoter.org
  4. ^ "Justices ruled on their own financial interests" By Reity O'Brien Chris Young, Kytja Weir, Chris Zubak-Skees

External links[edit]

  • Biography at California Supreme Court website.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Edward Panelli
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
1994 – present
Succeeded by