Goodwin Liu

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Goodwin Liu

Justice Goodwin Liu is an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. He was confirmed to office by a unanimous vote of the California Commission on Judicial Appointments on August 31, 2011, following his appointment by Governor Jerry Brown on July 26, 2011. The Governor administered the oath of office to Justice Liu in a public ceremony in Sacramento, California on September 1, 2011. Before joining the court, Justice Liu was Professor of Law and former Associate Dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).


Liu was married to Ann O'Leary, the daughter of a social worker and a union leader, who grew up in Orono, Maine. She was a senior policy adviser in the Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential Campaign. On August 30, 2016 O'Leary and Liu announced in a joint statement that they were separating, as Liu had entered into a relationship with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. [1] Liu's father, Wenpen Liu, is active in Taiwanese politics and is a main organizer in the Democratic Progressive Party overseas and head of the Sacramento office of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.


The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Justice Liu grew up in Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He went to Stanford University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1991. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a masters degree in philosophy and physiology. Upon returning to the United States, he went to Washington D.C. to help launch the AmeriCorps national service program and worked for two years as a senior program officer at the Corporation for National Service.

Justice Liu graduated from Yale Law School in 1998, becoming the first in his family to earn a law degree. He clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then worked as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, where he developed and coordinated K-12 education policy. He went on to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the October 2000 Term. In 2001, he joined the appellate litigation practice of O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C.

Justice Liu is a prolific and influential scholar on constitutional law and education policy. His 2006 article, “Education, Equality, and National Citizenship,” won the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, conferred by the Education Law Association. Justice Liu is also a popular and acclaimed teacher. In 2009, he received UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s most prestigious honor for individual excellence in teaching. The Boalt Hall Class of 2009 selected him as the faculty commencement speaker.

Justice Liu serves on the California Access to Justice Commission, the governing board of the American Law Institute, the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Bar Association Task Force on Financing Legal Education. He has previously served on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Constitution Society, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Public Welfare Foundation.[2]

Failed nomination

On February 24, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Liu to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. For more than a year, Liu's nomination languished, amid significant opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Senate. On May 19, 2011, the Senate rejected cloture on Liu's nomination in a 52–43 vote,[3] and on May 25, 2011, Liu informed President Obama that he was withdrawing his name from consideration to the seat on the Ninth Circuit, telling the president that "With no possibility of an up-or-down vote on the horizon, my family and I have decided that it is time for us to regain the ability to make plans for the future.[3]


Liu went to Stanford University and earned a B.S. in biology. While at Stanford, he was active in student politics as a member of the Peoples Platform, serving on the Council of Presidents of the ASSU. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a M. Phil in philosophy and physiology. Liu received his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Peoples Platform

Stanford Daily, March 1990

In March 1990 COP Peoples Platform candidates were seniors Jamie Green, Goodwin Liu, Ingrid Nava and junior Jay Tucker.

Liu was coordinator of that year's You Can Make a Difference Conference.


  1. [1]
  2. Harvard Law School bio
  3. [Dahlia Lithwick (May 25, 2011). "Goodwin Liu Withdraws". Slate]