Thursday, August 26, 2010
Commission Approves Nomination of Cantil-Sakauye
Members Also Favor Three for Spots on Court of Appeal
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Appointments yesterday approved Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nomination of Third District Court of Appeal Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to be the next chief justice of California.
The three-member commission unanimously approved Cantil-Sakauye’s nomination after a two-hour hearing in San Francisco that was televised live, on cable and over the Internet by the California Channel. Cantil-Sakauye, 50, was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation on Monday, and will now face voters on the Nov. 2 ballot.
If approved, she will succeed Chief Justice Ronald M. George and begin a 12-year term on Jan. 3. She would also become California’s first Filipina-American chief justice and give the seven-member high court its first female majority in history.
If she is not approved, the power to name the next chief justice will go to whoever succeeds Schwarzenegger in January. That currently is most likely former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the Republican nominee, or Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee.
George to Step Down
George, who chairs the CJA, announced last month that he will step down as chief justice at the end of his term Jan. 2. He was joined in his vote yesterday by Brown and Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of this district’s Div. Three, the Court of Appeal’s senior presiding justice.
Schwarzenegger applauded the vote, calling Cantil-Sakauye “an experienced jurist who has the respect of her peers, and [the] administrative and legal skills that make her uniquely qualified to lead California’s judicial branch.”
The hearing drew 11 witnesses in support of Cantil-Sakauye, including two colleagues on the Court of Appeal, Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland and Justice Vance Ray; retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman; and Mona Pasquil, who served as chief of staff to then-Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and then as acting lieutenant governor after Garamendi was elected to Congress last year.
Others included Sacramento County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, appearing for District Attorney Jan Scully; Sacramento attorney Michael Arkelian; Sacramento Superior Court Presiding Judge Steve White; Century City attorney Melvin Avanzado, representing the Philippine American Bar Association; Eduardo Angeles, representing the Filipino American Service Group Inc.; Marily Mondejar, president of the Filipina Women’s Network; and Genevieve D. Dong, president of the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California.
The witnesses were enthusiastic in their praise for Cantil-Sakauye’s qualifications. The justice, currently a member of the Judicial Council, has served on the bench for 20 years, first on the Sacramento Municipal and Superior Courts, and then the Court of Appeal beginning in 2005.
A Republican, she was a deputy district attorney in Sacramento earlier in her career and served under then-Gov. George Deukmejian as deputy legal affairs secretary, and later as deputy legislative secretary.
The hearing also drew opposing testimony from community activist E.T. Snell of Apple Valley and Sacramento attorney Geoffrey L. Graybill, who raised accusations of bias.
Snell—who attends San Bernardino County government meetings in a clown costume, which he said officials prohibited him from wearing yesterday—claimed that Cantil-Sakauye was biased against the mentally disabled and the accused in criminal cases. He alleged that her rulings were calculated “to keep on good terms with unions and majorities.”
Graybill, a deputy state attorney general who identified himself as an “attorney/mediator,” accused the nominee of bias against “male victims of heterosexual domestic violence.”
However, Woodland Hills attorney Alice Salvo, who chairs the JNE Commission, said the commission “found no indication of bias” in its review of the nominee’s fitness for the post, a conclusion she said remained unchanged following Snell and Graybill’s testimony.
Cantil-Sakauye testified that the allegations against her were “false, misinformed and misguided,” telling those present: “I stand behind my record.”
In other news, the Commission on Judicial Appointments, in separate meetings, also unanimously confirmed Fifth District Court of Appeal Justice Brad R. Hill as the court’s presiding justice, Riverside Superior Court Judge Carol D. Codrington to join the Fourth District’s Div. Two and Sacramento Superior Court Judge Louis R. Mauro to join the Third District.
Mauro took office immediately, but Hill and Codrington will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot in their respective districts. If approved by voters, they can then be sworn in Jan. 3. If not, the power to fill the two posts will go to the next governor.
Hill, 56, and a Republican, has served as an associate justice of the Fifth District since 2006, and before that was a member of the Fresno Superior and Municipal Courts.
CJA members George, Brown and Fifth District Presiding Justice James A. Ardaiz, who Hill will succeed if approved by voters, voted in favor of the nomination.
Codrington, 50, and also a Republican, was previously a Riverside Superior Court commissioner. She has been a sole practitioner, an associate general counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District and a Los Angeles deputy city attorney, among others, and was tapped to replace Justice Barton C. Gaut, whose seat has remained open since he retired Feb. 28.
George, Brown and the presiding justice of the Fourth District’s Div. Two—Manuel A. Ramirez, who served on the CJA due to the unavailability of Div. Three Presiding Justice David Sills, the Fourth District’s senior presiding justice—voted to approve Codrington’s nomination.
Mauro, 49, and registered decline-to-state, was previously Schwarzenegger’s chief deputy legal affairs secretary, a member of the California Attorney General’s Office and a staff attorney for the California Supreme Court, in addition to practicing privately. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Fred K. Morrison in January 2009.
George, Brown and Third District Presiding Justice Arthur G. Scotland, who has slated retirmement for Sept. 17, voted in favor of Mauro’s nomination.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company