California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he will appoint Luis Céspedes, a longtime Sacramento attorney who marched alongside César Chávez in the 1960s, as his judicial appointments secretary. Céspedes, 68, will fill the role vacated by Martin Jenkins, whom Newsom appointed to fill a vacancy on the California Supreme Court.
“Luis Céspedes has championed the cause of civil rights, equal justice, diversity and inclusion throughout his storied legal career,” Newsom said in a statement. “From his days as a 15-year-old going on strike with the United Farm Workers alongside César Chávez, to his time as a Capitol staffer and decades as a lawyer, Luis’ resilience and compassion have touched countless lives and earned the respect of countless others.”
Since 1982, Céspedes, a Democrat, has practiced in Sacramento at the Law Offices of Luis A. Céspedes. He has also served several staff roles in the California Assembly, including the principal consultant for the Assembly’s health committee, and he was a law clerk and case analyst at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the early 1970s.
“I am very grateful that Governor Newsom has selected me for this extraordinarily important job,” Céspedes said in a statement. “The appointment of judges committed to public service and who reflect the diversity of our great state is critically important to the fair and equitable administration of justice. I am also honored to succeed Associate Justice Martin Jenkins who has laid the foundation for the future.”
The Sacramento County Bar Association recognized Céspedes as its “Distinguished Attorney of the Year” in 2018. In an interview that year with Sacramento Lawyer magazine, Céspedes said he was inspired to practice law when he was a 15-year-old farmworker in Santa Maria and joined striking UFW workers on a march.
When law enforcement officers started arresting the workers, Céspedes told the magazine, a “long-haired, skinny lawyer” arrived on the scene and told the cops they couldn’t violate the strikers’ First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. Céspedes said he wanted to learn how to “talk like that” and resolved to become a lawyer himself.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that Céspedes “has dedicated his life to advancing justice, diversity and inclusion” and that his commitment is “more than just a motto.”
“From going on strike alongside César Chávez to selflessly lifting others to higher office, Luis has walked the walk,” Becerra said. “Luis Céspedes’ input and counsel will be invaluable assets as Governor Newsom seeks out California’s finest to serve in our most consequential posts in government.”
In the California Governor’s Office, the judicial appointments secretary reviews applications for judicial appointments and, if the secretary advances the application, manages the next stages of its evaluation process. The position doesn’t require confirmation by the California Senate and comes with a salary of $207,000.
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