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
Nominated by Pete Wilson
Preceded by Edward Panelli
Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First District
In office
1991 – June 2, 1994
Preceded by Gary E. Strankman
Personal details
Born (1936-04-05) April 5, 1936 (age 82)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma mater UC Berkeley (BA)
George Washington University (JD)

Kathryn Mickle Werdegar (born April 5, 1936) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California from June 3, 1994, to August 31, 2017.


Werdegar 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), class of 1962, before completing her J.D. degree at the George Washington University Law School, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class.[2][3] While at Boalt Hall, Werdegar served as editor-in-chief of the California Law Review.[4]

In 1962, following graduation, she joined the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice working under Attorney General Robert Kennedy in Washington, D.C..[5] In 1963, after returning to California, she held a series of legal and teaching positions, including associate dean and professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law.[6][5] In 1981, she was hired as a research attorney for the state courts, where she worked with various justices, and then worked directly with Edward A. Panelli as a senior attorney.[5]

In 1991, Governor Pete Wilson appointed Werdeger as an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First District.[7]

In August 1994, Governor Wilson elevated Werdegar to the Supreme Court.[6][8] In November 1994, a few months after her appointment, she won a retention election. In November 2002, she was again retained by the electorate with 74.1% percent of the vote.[9] In November 2014, she was elected again to a 12-year term.[10][11] On August 31, 2017, she retired from the high court.[12][13] Governor Jerry Brown will choose a replacement to fill the remainder of her term.[14][15]

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." [16]

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 reviewed the ruling and on June 19, 2017, issued its opinion in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, No. 16-466.[17]


  1. ^ Bowen, Debra, Justices of the California Supreme Court (PDF), California Secretary of State, retrieved 2010-11-23 
  2. ^ "Centenial Bulletin, 1912-2012" (PDF). University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall). 2012. p. 20. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  3. ^ Chiang, Harriet (August 19, 2002). "Profile: Kathryn Mickle Werdegar / Quiet might of a justice / State Supreme Court's Werdegar a champion for ordinary people". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  4. ^ Braitman, Jacqueline R.; Uelmen, Gerald F. (2012). Justice Stanley Mosk: A Life at the Center of California Politics and Justice. McFarland. p. 241. ISBN 0786468416. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c "Comments of Hon. Jared Huffman: Honoring the Service of Justice Kathryn Werdegar". Congressional Record, 115th Congress, 1st Session. 163 (120): E999. July 17, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Dolan, Maura (May 4, 1994). "Wilson Names Appeals Judge to Supreme Court : Law: Kathryn Werdegar was an aide to retired Justice Panelli. She is a conservative and a friend of the governor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  7. ^ Hager, Phillip (July 24, 1991). "Wilson Nominates 2 for Court of Appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  8. ^ Cadelago, Christopher (March 8, 2017). "Werdegar retirement gives Jerry Brown chance to further mold California Supreme Court". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  9. ^ smartvoter.org
  10. ^ Mintz, Howard (October 12, 2014). "California Supreme Court and state appeals court justices face easy election road". Mercury News. Retrieved September 2, 2017. 
  11. ^ Elias, Thomas D. (July 1, 2014). "Column: Brown can put his stamp on California Supreme Court". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved September 22, 2017. 
  12. ^ "High Court Justice Werdegar Retiring Today". San Francisco Gate. Bay City News Service. August 31, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017. 
  13. ^ Egelko, Bob (March 8, 2017). "State high court Justice Werdegar to retire". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 11, 2017. 
  14. ^ Egelko, Bob (July 28, 2017). "Why you should care about who will sit on California's Supreme Court". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 20, 2017. 
  15. ^ Dolan, Maura (March 13, 2017). "As Justice Kathryn Werdegar prepares to retire, Brown will soon have a Democratic majority on state's top court". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Justices ruled on their own financial interests" By Reity O'Brien Chris Young, Kytja Weir, Chris Zubak-Skees
  17. ^ "Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California". Justia.com. Retrieved August 22, 2017. 

Selected publications[edit]

  • Werdegar, Kathryn Mickle (1962). "Constitutionality of Federal Legislation to Abolish Literacy Tests: Civil Rights Commission's 1961 Report on Voting". George Washington University Law Review. 30 (4): 723–743. 
  • Wedergar, Kathryn Mickle (1968). "Solicitor General and Administrative Due Process: A Quarter-Century of Advocacy". George Washington University Law Review. 36 (3): 481–514. 
  • Werdegar, Kathryn (1975). California misdemeanor procedure benchbook. Berkeley, CA: California Continuing Education of the Bar. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  • Werdegar, Kathryn Mickle (2012). "Living with Direct Democracy: The California Supreme Court and the Initiative Power - 100 Years of Accommodation". California Legal History. 7: 143–166. 
  • Werdegar, Kathryn M. (2015). "A Tribute to Justice Joe Grodin". California Legal History. 10: 8–12. 


External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Edward Panelli
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
1994 – 2017
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Gary E. Strankman
Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First District
1991 – 1994
Succeeded by