New Sacramento Superior Court judge was attorney for two California governors

Governor's Office

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Rei Onishi, an attorney for the Governor’s Office for the past several years, to serve as a Sacramento Superior Court judge.

Onishi, 41, of Sacramento County, was among 10 new California superior court judges appointed by Newsom, the Governor’s Office announced Tuesday in a news release. Onishi is filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Michael A. Savage.

He has been deputy legal affairs secretary in the Governor’s Office since 2017 under Newsom and former Gov. Jerry Brown. Onishi, a Democrat, argued on behalf of both administrations in defense of Brown’s pension overhaul law.

The California Supreme Court in July 2020 ruled against public employee unions challenging part of Brown’s Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act that barred pension spiking.

Before that, Onishi served as a senior policy advisor and White House fellow in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2015 to 2017. He also served as a deputy attorney general in California from 2012 to 2015 and as a law clerk from 2011 to 2012 for former Judge Beverly Martin of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Onishi was a legislative aide and senate fellow for state Sen. Joe Simitian from 2004 to 2006. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School and a master’s degree in public policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Superior court judges serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election. Vacancies are filled through appointment by the governor.

This week’s bench appointments from the Governor’s Office also included judges in Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Nevada, Riverside County, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties.

Newsom’s office on Tuesday also announced his nomination of four Court of Appeal Justices: Justice Tracie L. Brown as Presiding Justice of the 1st District Court of Appeal, Division 4; Judge Tari Cody as an Associate Justice of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division 6; Judge Audra Mori as an Associate Justice of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division 4; and Judge Julia Kelety as an Associate Justice of the 4th District Court of Appeal, Division 1.