Judith McConnell (California)

Judge Judith McConnell has served on the California 4th District Court of Appeal for over 20 years, establishing herself as an experienced and well-respected jurist. However, unlike many judges who wear their political affiliations on their sleeves, McConnell’s partisan leanings are less clear cut. This article will analyze McConnell’s background, judicial appointments, legal career, and rulings to try and shed light on her political orientation and relationship with the Democratic and Republican parties.

Background on Judith McConnell

Judith McConnell was born in 1943 in New York. She attended the University of California, Berkeley for her bachelor’s degree and juris doctor. After law school, she worked for the California Department of Transportation before entering private practice.

McConnell’s judicial career began in 1978 when she was appointed to the San Diego Municipal Court. Just two years later, she was elevated to the Superior Court of San Diego County. In 2001, Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, appointed McConnell to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

McConnell’s Judicial Appointments

McConnell landed her first judicial appointment in 1978 under Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat. However, her subsequent elevation and appointment to higher courts came under Republican governors.

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In 1980, Governor Ronald Reagan elevated McConnell to the San Diego County Superior Court. 21 years later in 2001, Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, appointed McConnell to the 4th District Court of Appeal. But McConnell’s reappointments to the Court of Appeal in 2009, 2015, and 2022 came under Republican Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gavin Newsom.

This bipartisan record of appointments reflects McConnell’s ability to garner support from both sides of the political aisle.

McConnell’s Legal Career

Prior to becoming a judge, McConnell gained experience in both the public and private sectors. She worked as an attorney for a California state agency before transitioning into private practice at the law firm Reed, McConnell & Sullivan.

This diverse legal background gave McConnell practical knowledge and understanding of the law from multiple perspectives. As a judge, McConnell is known for her detailed, meticulous rulings and reputation as a moderate.

McConnell’s Political Affiliations

So where does McConnell fall politically? She is a registered Democrat, but has proven adept at drawing bipartisan support for her judicial nominations.

Registered as Democrat

McConnell is registered as a Democrat in California. She has donated to Democratic candidates and causes over the years, including Kamala Harris’ campaign for Attorney General.

Supported by Republicans

Despite her Democratic registration, some of McConnell’s biggest supporters have been Republican governors. Both Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed or reappointed her to judicial positions.

Bipartisan Appointments

McConnell’s bipartisan judicial appointments reflect her ability to garner support across party lines. Rather than pigeonholing McConnell as a partisan Democrat or Republican, her career shows an ability to appeal to both sides.

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McConnell’s Judicial Decisions

An analysis of some of McConnell’s most notable rulings provides insight into her judicial philosophy:

Death Penalty Cases

McConnell has voted to uphold death penalty verdicts, such as in the case of People v. Samuels. This tendency to affirm death sentences puts her at odds with more liberal Democrats who oppose capital punishment.

Environmental Law Cases

In cases like Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development v. City of San Diego, McConnell sided with environmentalists to uphold CEQA and protect wildlife habitats. These pro-environment decisions align with typical Democratic positions.

Criminal Justice Reform

McConnell has authored opinions supporting criminal justice reforms like Proposition 36 which eased California’s Three Strikes sentencing laws. Her rulings show a willingness to reconsider traditional “tough on crime” stances.

Analysis of McConnell’s Politics

Based on her background, career, and judicial decisions, a few key themes emerge about McConnell’s political orientation:

Hard to Pin Down Ideologically

McConnell doesn’t fit neatly into a partisan or ideological box. Her votes on issues like the death penalty and environment show crossover appeal and moderation.

Nuanced Positions

McConnell takes nuanced positions that blend both Democratic and Republican philosophies. For example, she upholds the death penalty but also supports criminal justice reforms.

Focus on Law Rather than Politics

Above all, McConnell prizes her reputation as a thoughtful, impartial jurist. She prioritizes upholding the law over partisan loyalties or purity.


After 20+ years on the bench, Judith McConnell defies easy political labels. She leverages her centrist sensibilities and adept legal mind to earn bipartisan respect. McConnell approaches cases impartially, focused on the letter of the law rather than partisan pressures. While her core legal philosophy remains anchored in her left-leaning perspective, she avoids ideological extremes and brings nuance to complex issues. For Judge McConnell, fidelity to the law trumps partisan fealty.

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Is Judith McConnell a Republican or Democrat?

McConnell is a registered Democrat in California, though she has proven capable of drawing bipartisan support for her judicial nominations and appointments.

What is Judith McConnell’s political affiliation?

While registered as a Democrat, McConnell’s politics are more nuanced and moderate. She takes pragmatic positions on issues like criminal justice reform and the environment that blend philosophies of both major parties.

Does Judith McConnell align with Republicans or Democrats?

McConnell does not fully align with either major party. She balances her Democratic registration with an ability to garner Republican support. Her judicial decisions are not strictly partisan and show ideological balance.

What political party appointed Judith McConnell?

McConnell received judicial appointments from both Democratic and Republican governors in California. This bipartisan record reflects her centrist approach.

Is Judith McConnell a liberal or conservative judge?

McConnell is viewed as a moderate, centrist judge. Her rulings do not consistently align with stereotypical liberal or conservative positions. She weighs each case on its merits with nuance.

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