Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Goodwin Liu to the state Supreme Court. In May, Liu had withdrawn his nomination by President Obama for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after Republicans basically halted this pick. It will be fascinating to see what this means for the state's muscular public sector, but the Berkeley law professor has been a forthright advocate for what is called "constitutional fidelity." Like all liberal ideas, it pretty much means the opposite of its moniker. As Liu argued in a 2005 book:
The Constitution endures because its meaning and application have been shaped by an ongoing process of interpretation. That process includes both judicial interpretation and transformations in constitutional understanding pressed by political leaders and ordinary citizens throughout our history. Our Constitution retains its vitality because it has proven adaptable to the changing conditions and evolving norms of our society. Its words and principles still resonate centuries after they were written because time and again, as Justice Holmes urged, we have interpreted the Constitution in light of "what this country has become."Liu's nomination has been criticized by Latino activists for raw ethnic reasons, given that after the perfunctory approval he will replace a retired Latino justice. Asian-American activists are celebrating that the high court will, for the first time in its history, have an Asian-American majority. There is unlikely to be much discussion about Liu's philosophy, which champions the expansion of the government and the erosion of constitutional restraint on social engineering.
On the good side, Liu has been critical of police abuses and governmental snooping and has championed education vouchers. But beyond that, believers in a smaller government and a restrained bureaucracy have little reason to be happy with this selection.