San Francisco—Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar today announced her retirement from the Supreme Court of California effective August 31, 2017, after 23 years on the high court and 55 years of public service.
Justice Werdegar added, “It has been a great privilege and honor to serve the people of California as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court for 23 years. During that time, I have had the privilege of serving with three outstanding Chief Justices and many wonderful colleagues, and the opportunity to address some of the state’s most challenging issues. But, it is time for someone else to have that privilege and opportunity. I wish my colleagues, the Governor, and my successor well.”
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye commented on the announcement saying, “Justice Werdegar began her public service career working for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington during the Sixties. Since then, she has been an educator and an author, a dedicated attorney, a respected jurist and a valued colleague on a court that strives to protect Californians’ civil and constitutional rights. Her service to the public has been invaluable. She has written many excellent court opinions under three chief justices and has contributed to our collegial court ethos. We will miss her and wish her well in the next chapter to come.”
Former Chief Justice Ronald M. George commented that, "It was both a privilege and a pleasure to serve with Kathryn Werdegar as colleagues on the Supreme Court of California. Her meticulous work in crafting the opinions that she authored for the court and those that she wrote separately, as well as the contributions that she made to the work of her fellow justices, greatly enhanced the guidance provided by California’s high court to the lower courts, the Bar, and the public. Justice Werdegar’s work in chairing the court’s Advisory Committee on Rules for Publication of Court of Appeal Opinions has made a lasting contribution to the administration of justice, as has her service on various Judicial Council committees and her active participation in judicial education. I join the many others who are deeply grateful for her numerous efforts, and wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
Justice Werdegar was sworn into office on the Supreme Court of California by Governor Peter Barton "Pete" Wilson on June 3, 1994 and has been twice reconfirmed by statewide vote of the electorate. Before this, she served as an Associate Justice on the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Three in San Francisco.
Former Governor Pete Wilson said, “I am sure that Justice Werdegar’s colleagues on the High Court, past and present, regard her with great affection and great respect as a conscientious and collegial member of the court. For all the contributions for which she has been praised by former Chief Justice Ron George in his eloquent tribute to her, she will be missed and remembered by California’s legal community for her lucid and highly articulate opinions. She has my sincere thanks for her dedication and truly distinguished service.”
Prior to her judicial appointments, she served as Senior Staff Attorney to Supreme Court of California Associate Justice Edward Panelli, whom she would later replace on the high court, and as a Senior Staff Attorney of the Central Staff at the First Appellate District, Court of Appeal.
A native San Franciscan, Justice Werdegar began her legal career as an attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington D.C. in 1962. Returning to California, she worked as an attorney and author on a number of initiatives relating to mental health issues, and with the University of California and Center for Study of the Law and Society, the California Center for Judicial Education and Research.
Transitioning into education she was Director, Criminal Law Division, Continuing Education of the Bar, and then Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Associate Professor, University of San Francisco School of Law.
Justice Werdegar began her law studies at the University of California School of Law (Boalt Hall), where she was first in her class and the first woman to be elected editor-in-chief of the California Law Review. She completed her law studies at George Washington University, where she graduated first in her class. She attended Wellesley College and received her B.A. (with honors) from the University of California at Berkeley.