Thursday, July 22, 2010
Governor Names Cantil-Sakauye as Chief Justice
Schwarzenegger Also Names Superior Court Judges, Including Four in Los Angeles
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday nominated Third District Court of Appeal Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to become the next chief justice of California.
“Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has a distinguished history of public service and understands that the role of a justice is not to create law, but to independently and fairly interpret and administer the law,” the governor said. “She is a living example of the American Dream and when she is confirmed by the voters in November, Judge Cantil-Sakauye will become California’s first Filipina chief justice; adding to our High Court’s already rich diversity.”
Schwarzenegger yesterday also appointed six superior court judges around the state, including Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys Cathryn F. Brougham, Tamara Elaine Hall and Valerie Salkin, and McLaughlin Law Group partner Denise M. McLaughlin-Bennett to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
If Cantil-Sakauye, 50, is confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Chief Justice Ronald George next Jan. 2, a majority of the high court’s justices will be women for the first time in history.
Currently a member of the Judicial Council, Cantil-Sakauye has been a judge for 20 years, and worked in the governor’s office under then-Gov. George Deukmejian and as a deputy district attorney in Sacramento earlier in her career.
Schwarzenegger appointed her to the Third District in Sacramento in 2005, and she served as a judge on the Sacramento Superior Court from 1997 to 2004 at the appointment of then-Gov. Pete Wilson, and on the Sacramento Municipal Court from 1990 to 1997 at the appointment of Deukmejian.
A Republican, Cantil-Sakauye worked for Deukmejian as the governor’s deputy legislative secretary from 1989 to 1990, and his deputy legal affairs secretary from 1988 to 1989. She attended college and law school at UC Davis, and served for four years in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office after joining the State Bar in 1984.
Judicial Council Member
Cantil-Sakauye is vice chair of the Judicial Council’s Rules and Projects Committee and Judicial Recruitment and Retention Working Group. She is a member of the Commission on Impartial Courts, chair of the Judicial Branch Financial Accountability and Efficiency Advisory Committee and president of the Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court.
She said yesterday that the opportunity to serve as chief justice was “a privilege and a tremendous honor,” adding:
“I have had the distinct pleasure of being a municipal court judge, a superior court judge and an appellate court justice. Being nominated to serve on the highest court in California is a dream come true. I deeply respect the inspirational and visionary work of Chief Justice Ronald George and hope to build upon it.
“As a jurist, woman and a Filipina, I am extremely grateful for the trust Governor Schwarzenegger has placed in me. I hope to show young people what they can achieve if they follow their dreams and reach for their full potential.”
Cantil-Sakauye’s nomination must be submitted to the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of George, Attorney General Jerry Brown, and Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal.
If confirmed by Sept. 16, as required by Art. VI, Sec. 16 of the California Constitution, her name will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot for voter approval. However, if she is not confirmed by that date, the spot will remain empty and the power to name the next chief justice will go to whoever succeeds Schwarzenegger as governor in January.
Praise From Colleagues
The nomination drew praise from Cantil-Sakauye’s colleagues on the Third District, as well as from George, who called her an “ideal” choice to follow him.
“She’s a truly exceptional person from the standpoint of her legal experience and her leadership role on the Judicial Council…,” he told the MetNews. “She’s a strong person with a strong commitment to the statewide administration of justice.”
George said he was “greatly reassured” by the nomination, adding that he was “firmly convinced she would carry forward in the same manner” as he has as chief justice.
He was joined by Cantil-Sakauye’s Third District colleagues in focusing on the depth and breadth of her experience with all three branches of state government, and as both a jurist and an administrator.
Third District Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland called her a “brilliant choice,” and said that working with Cantil-Sakauye was one of the highlights of his 23 years on the bench.
“She is an exceptionally smart, diligent, articulate, collegial, thoughtful, respectful colleague,” he said.
Justice George Nicholson said Cantil-Sakauye was “a great judge and a very able administrator” whose experience would allow her to “hit the ground running.” Drawing an analogy to baseball, he said she was “a five-tool player” in that—like one who excels at the five skills necessary to be an effective baseball player—“she can do everything.”
Nicholson, who has sat with George on the Supreme Court on assignment, said there were many similarities in George and Cantil-Sakauye’s approaches, and that both are “diplomatic, collegial and listen to the people around them.”
Justice Vance Raye agreed, commenting that Cantil-Sakauye is “not an ideologue, not an extremist.” He said his colleague is “open to persuasion…and very thoughtful without applying any litmus test or ideological matrices.”
Justice Harry Hull said he was “delighted” by the “well-deserved” nomination, while Justice Coleman Blease remarked that Cantil-Sakauye has “all the qualities you would look for” in a chief justice.
In Los Angeles, Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge Lee Edmon said she was “absolutely thrilled” with the nomination. Edmon, who has served with Cantil-Sakauye on the Judicial Council for two years, said she was “very impressed” with the nominee, praising her thoughtfulness and “good judgment.”
Commenting of the prospect of a majority of the court’s justices being women, she said:
“It’s wonderful. It’s another thing to be excited about.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan, one of the directors of the Alliance of California Judges, a group that has openly challenged George and the centralization of the state’s judiciary, congratulated Cantil-Sakauye on her nomination. He said the group hopes “to be able to meet with her in the near future to discuss matters of interest to our membership.”
Jurists and others who spoke with the MetNews yesterday indicated that they would be surprised if Cantil-Sakauye’s nomination drew opposition.
“I don’t know anyone who would be against it,” Nicholson said. “I’ve never heard a bad word about her, and never seen anything that would cause me to say a bad word about her.”
Former State Bar President Sheldon Sloan said he believed Cantil-Sakauye already had two of the three votes on the Commission on Judicial Appointments, those of George and Klein, and that “it would be hard for Brown not to vote for her.”
As the Democratic nominee to succeed Schwarzenegger, Brown—or his Republican counterpart, former e-Bay CEO Meg Whitman—would gain the chance to appoint George’s successor if Cantil-Sakauye’s nomination failed.
Sloan said Cantil-Sakauye’s nomination represented “an elegant solution” by Schwarzenegger for preventing that opportunity from going to his successor. Sloan speculated that Cantil-Sakauye’s qualities made her confirmation by Sept. 16 likely, and that Schwarzenegger avoided creating a second vacancy that would have gone to his successor if he chose to elevate one of the sitting Supreme Court justices, whose terms do not expire until January or later.
Sloan also predicted that Cantil-Sakauye at age 50—approximately 10 years younger than all of the justices currently serving on the Supreme Court—would likely be chief justice for at least the next 20 years if confirmed.
In other news, Schwarzenegger yesterday appointed four Democrats to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Brougham, 44, has served as a deputy district attorney since 2005. She attended UCLA and Loyola Law School, and joined the State Bar in 1994. She fills the vacancy created by the conversion of a court commissioner position on March 16.
Hall, 39, has been a deputy district attorney since 1999 and an adjunct professor of law at Southwestern Law School since 2008. She graduated from USC and Golden Gate University School of Law before admission to the State Bar in 1998. She fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Elizabeth A. Grimes to this district’s Court of Appeal.
Salkin, 44, has served as a deputy district attorney since 1997, and was deputy legal counsel for Brad Sherman, a former chair of the California State Board of Equalization, from 1993 to 1996. She attended the University of Michigan and USC School of Law before joining the State Bar in 1992.
Salkin was elected in June to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge William R. Weisman. The governor’s appointment allows her to immediately take her position on the bench.
McLaughlin-Bennett, 44, has served as senior partner at McLaughlin Law Group since 2008 and before that was a sole practitioner from 1994 to 2006. She attended college at California State University, Dominguez Hills and law school at USC before admission to the State Bar in 1994. She fills the vacancy created by the death of Judge Paul Gutman.
Schwarzenegger also appointed Orange County Deputy District Attorney Cheri T. Pham to the Orange Superior Court, and Grunsky, Ebey, Farrar and Howell partner Rebecca Connolly to the Santa Cruz Superior Court.
Compensation for superior court judges is $178,789, while compensation for the chief justice is $238,010.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company