California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, who began his judicial career in Los Angeles nearly four decades ago, announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election in November.
George, who authored the 2008 ruling that briefly legalized same-sex marriage in the state, said he will retire in January.
George, 70, has been a judge for 38 years and was appointed to the state's high court in 1991 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. He began his judicial career in 1972 when then-Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court.
"It is with enormous gratitude for the privilege and opportunity to serve the people of California that I shall conclude my time in public office," George said in a prepared statement.
He added that a period of reflection has "convinced me now is the right time -- while I am at the top of my game -- to leave while the proverbial music still plays, and return to private life."
As the 27th chief justice of the state, George was instrumental in making reforms in California's judicial branch, including the state's assumption of responsibility for funding of the 58 counties' trial courts; the merger of the 220 municipal and superior courts into a single superior court in each county; and the transfer of ownership and governance of the state's 533 courthouses from the counties to the state, under judicial branch management.
He was named chief justice in 1996.
"Heading California's judicial branch and its efforts to carry out our mission of providing fair and accessible justice to all Californians has been a particularly rewarding experience during these times of great challenge, opportunity, and reform," George said.
"My gratitude extends literally to thousands of persons -- judges, court executives, lawyers and others -- for their service on the Judicial Council, on its many advisory committees and task forces, and in the Administrative Office of the Courts, in strengthening the quality, independence, and accountability of our judiciary as a co-equal, separate branch of government," he said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to appoint his successor by Sept. 16.