Ronald George, the Chief Justice of California's Supreme Court whose 2008 ruling struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, surprised everyone on Wednesday by announcing he's retiring.
"George, 70, said he will retreat from his notoriously frenetic life to read, run and travel — a move that stunned colleagues and the rest of the legal world and gives Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a chance to fill the most powerful position in the sprawling state court system before he leaves office.
"Reflection convinced me now is the right time, while I am at the top of my game," said George, who finalized his decision this weekend with his family in Lake Tahoe.
George, who faced no organized political opposition in the fall and was likely to breeze to another a term, is widely credited with restoring the prestige of the chief justice's office, following the 1986 ouster of former Chief Justice Rose Bird and the more insular tenure of Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, which was marked by tensions with the Legislature…George made it clear he is leaving in time to give the Republican governor the chance to nominate the next chief justice, which he must do by Sept. 16. If Schwarzenegger meets that deadline, George's successor will appear on the November ballot for a position that not only heads the state Supreme Court but also the California Judicial Council, the policymaking arm of the entire state court system."
George, whose same-sex marriage ruling is widely seen as his most significant, also wrote the opinion upholding Proposition 8: "George, in the ruling, concluded that the court could not trump the voters' wish to amend the state constitution."