Ronald Marc George (born March 11, 1940) is the retired and 27th Chief Justice of California, where he headed the Supreme Court of California. He was appointed to his current position by Governor Pete Wilson in May 1996. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University, a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School and has served on the Supreme Court since 1991.

Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court by Wilson, George had been appointed to the California Court of Appeal by Governor George Deukmejian in 1987, the Los Angeles Superior Court by Governor Jerry Brown in 1977, and the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972.

George presided over the trial of Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono, Jr. in 1981, when he was a superior court judge. George was widely lauded for his extremely unusual decision to deny the motion by Los Angeles County District Attorney's office to dismiss all 10 counts of murder against Buono, although his unusual decision was speculated to be a result of his earlier decision to separate crucial counts of rape and sodomy, which in themselves would serve as evidence against the accused, from the murder charges. The prosecutors felt the evidence against Buono was so weak that it did not justify even an attempt to win at trial. Although judges rarely second guess the prosecutors' judgment on such a matter (and George noted his own reservations about doing so in making his decision), George's review of the evidence in the case caused him to feel so strongly that the prosecutors were in error that he did exactly that. George reassigned the case to the California Attorney General's office, and that office successfully convicted Buono on nine of the 10 counts. Thus, it was recognized that the judge, through his bold action to deny the earlier motion to dismiss, had ultimately prevented a serial killer from going free.

George is occasionally floated as a candidate for justice of the United States Supreme Court as a conservative acceptable to Democrats. In fact, according to a July 13, 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Democratic United States Senator Barbara Boxer suggested George as a potential nominee for the seat on the Court vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation, describing both George and his fellow California Supreme Court justice, Kathryn Werdegar, as "Republicans who 'reflect the spirit of Sandra Day O'Connor's tenure – independent and nonideological.'"

In re Marriage Cases

Main article: In re Marriage Cases

In November 2006, several parties petitioned the Supreme Court of California to review the decision of lower California courts regarding same-sex marriage in the state.[1] Despite prevailing in the Court of Appeal, then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer urged the Supreme Court to take up the case.[1] In December 2006, the Supreme Court voted unanimously to review all six cases and held oral argument on March 4, 2008, consolidating the cases as In re Marriage Cases.[2]

On May 15, 2008 the Supreme Court (in a 4-3 ruling) struck down California's existing statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples,[3] including a 1977 one-man, one-woman marriage law and a similar voter-approved 2000 law, effective in thirty days. The opinion, written by Chief Justice George, cited the court's 1948 decision that reversed the state's interracial marriages ban. It found that "equal respect and dignity" of marriage is a "basic civil right" that cannot be withheld from same-sex couples, that sexual orientation is a protected class like race and gender, and that any classification or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the California State Constitution. Associate Justices Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn M. Werdegar, and Carlos R. Moreno concurred.[4] It is the first state high court in the country to do so.[5]

In the majority opinion, Justice Ronald George wrote:

Because of the widespread disparagement that gay individuals historically have faced, it is all the more probable that excluding same-sex couples from the legal institution of marriage is likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationships are of lesser stature than the comparable relationships of opposite-sex couples. Finally, retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise — now emphatically rejected by this state — that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects "second-class citizens" who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.[4]

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