Good morning, California.

“I’ve watched him as vice president, I’ve seen him operate, I’ve seen him perform. He brings a level of experience and seniority which I think is really important.”—Sen. Dianne Feinstein on her preferred presidential candidate, Joe Biden, as opposed to, say, the likely presidential run by the junior senator from California, Kamala Harris.


The revolving door swings

Incoming Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara

One of two people leading state Sen. Ricardo Lara’s transition as California’s newly elected Insurance Commissioner worked until last month as the Sacramento lobbyist for a major drug maker that is being investigated by the Department of Insurance that Lara soon will head.

  • Michael Martinez was named in a December press release announcing he would help lead Lara’s transition to the 1,300-employee department. That release described Martinez, a former insurance department official and aide to Gov. Jerry Brown,  as “currently working in California’s life sciences sector.”

Not mentioned: Who Martinez’s employer was and what aspect of the life sciences sector he was working in.

  • In fact, Martinez was the Sacramento lobbyist for Foster City-based pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, which has disclosed to investors that the California Department of Insurance has issued a subpoena related to marketing by the company.

CALmatters has the details. To get them, click here.

A teen takes on Trump

Crista Ramos, lead plaintiff in a TPS lawsuit

A Richmond teenager has become the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit to keep hundreds of thousands of Temporary Protected Status immigrants in the U.S., writes Farida Jhabvala Romero of KQED in a report for the California Dream collaboration between CALmatters and public radio.

  • Crista Ramos, 14, filed a suit on behalf of 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. President Donald Trump’s administration has appealed the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It’s the first by a U.S.-citizen child and TPS-holding parents. Ramos’ mother has also joined as a plaintiff; she has lived in the U.S. since she was 12.

Ramos: “I felt like I needed to speak up…and represent all the children whose parents have TPS and could be sent back.”

Congress created the TPS program in 1990 to provide humanitarian relief to immigrants in the U.S. who could not safely return home to countries struck by natural disasters or armed conflict. Trump has sought to end it.

Romero: “If the Trump administration ended the protections, Crista would face a monumental choice: Grow up in the United States without her mom, who would likely face deportation, or move with her to El Salvador, a country convulsed by poverty and one of the highest homicide rates in the world.”

And Groban makes four

California Supreme Court Justice Joshua Groban

Joshua Groban was sworn in as Gov. Jerry Brown’s fourth justice on the seven-member California Supreme Court. Brown administered the judicial oath of office in one of his final acts as governor—one that likely will impact Californians for many years.

Brown on Groban: “I can’t tell you what the hell he’s going to do. I warned him, don’t screw up, at least not at first.”

Groban, 45, served as one Brown’s chief advisers, taking the lead on selecting judges during the governor’s two terms.

  • Groban’s wife, two young children (his little girl stuck her tongue out more than once), parents and numerous other relatives attended the swearing in. It took place at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Sacramento, named for the longest serving Supreme Court justice, one appointed by Brown’s father, Gov. Pat Brown.

Although Jerry Brown’s appointees constitute a majority of the seven member court, he insisted that it not be called the Brown court.

Brown on the court: “First of all, the so-called ‘Brown appointments’ do not agree with themselves and nor should they. They are individuals. They will differ. It’s not anybody’s court.”

The other six justices were on hand, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and Brown’s other three appointees, each of whom is, like Groban, in their 40s—young enough to influence California jurisprudence for a generation to come.

Brown's judges by the numbers

A final count of Brown-appointed judges over the past eight years released Thursday by the governor’s office reflects California’s diversity. Meanwhile, the governor’s California Supreme Court appointees run the gamut—of the Ivy League.

By the numbers:

  • 644 judges.
  • 44 percent women.
  • Nearly 6 percent identified themselves as LGBT.
  • Nearly 40 percent are non-white.

Among the firsts:

  • First openly gay justice ever appointed to the California Court of Appeal, Jim Humes, one of Brown’s closest aides.
  • First openly lesbian justice ever appointed to the California Court of Appeal, Therese M. Stewart.
  • First Hmong-American judge ever appointed in the country, Paul Lo.
  • First Muslim California Court of Appeal justice and the first South Asian American justice, Halim Dhanidina.
  • First Korean-American justice in the history of the California Courts of Appeal, Dorothy C. Kim.
  • First African-American judge appointed to the Kern County Superior Court, Gloria J. Cannon. 

Supreme Court appointees:

  • Yale Law School, Brown’s alma mater, produced Goodwin Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, and Leondra Reid Kruger, Brown’s three previous Supreme Court appointees.
  • Harvard man Joshua Groban supplies the law school diversity.

Pelosi, Becerra seek to rescue Obamacare

The House Speaker and California Attorney General in 2016

Nancy Pelosi and Xavier Becerra are together again: The California Democrats are taking steps to defend the Affordable Care Act this week, while the Trump administration refuses to defend the law against a Texas judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

  • Upon regaining the gavel, newly elected House Speaker Pelosi moved Thursday to defend the act she fought so hard for in 2009 and 2010, setting up a vote by the full House on Jan. 9 on whether to intervene to overturn that Texas ruling.

With Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, the outcome of the Jan. 9 vote is not in doubt. No official pushed harder for Obamacare’s passage than Pelosi. And Democrats owe much of their success in the 2018 election to their stand on health care.

  • The real question: How will House Republicans vote?

Pelosi: “Republicans should end their assault on health care and join us to do the right thing for the American people.”

Meanwhile, Becerra and 16 other state attorneys general announced their appeal of last month’s ruling.

Becerra: “I’ve seen how the ACA has transformed lives and I’ve seen it up close.”

Becerra was among Pelosi’s main lieutenants in the fight for the Affordable Care Act when he was in Congress. His Los Angeles district had the nation’s second highest number of uninsured residents.

Commentary at CALmatters

Sherry Treppa, chairwoman of Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake: Despite efforts to destroy us, we have persevered. In the past 20 years, the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake have begun to reestablish our government and, with it, our dignity, culture and identity.

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Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you Monday.