Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 28, 2022


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Cantil-Sakauye Won’t Seek New Term As Chief Justice


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced yesterday that she will not seek election in November to a second 12-year term.

Explaining the decision, a spokesperson said:

“[T]the time was right and there were many factors and considerations both personal and professional that went into her decision.”

The spokesperson noted that the chief justice, who is 62, has “no definitive plans at this time.”

Cantil-Sakauye’s public statement appears below.


Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced yesterday that she will not stand for election to a second 12-year term.


Presiding Judge Comments

Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor remarked:

“I have known the Chief Justice for over 23 years during our time on the bench. She is the embodiment of judicial excellence and commitment to justice, access and fairness. No one can as effectively deliver the message of the importance of the judiciary and court operations as she does.

“The Chief is one-of-a-kind, the likes of which come around only once in a generation. Her colleagues on the Los Angeles Superior court applaud her.”

Arthur Gilbert, presiding justice of Div. Six of this district’s Court of Appeal, reflected:

“Chief Justice Sakauye brought to our judiciary all the attributes of leadership and excellence this important office demanded. She excelled as a trial and appellate justice bringing to her position as Chief Justice practical insight as well as scholarship. Her administrative skills are extraordinary and her promotion of equal justice, civility and fairness brought vitality and openness to our judiciary.

“Her boundless energy and humanity made a difference to the legal profession, the courts and the public. I wonder when she had time to sleep and maybe take in a movie.”

‘Lasting Contribution’

Retired Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Norman Epstein had this to say:

“Tani Cantil-Sakauye has been a splendid Chief Justice: innovative, dedicated, and a leader. She has made a significant and lasting contribution to our judicial system and to justice. She will be missed.”

Court of Appeal Judge William Bedsworth of the Fourth District’s Div. Three declared:

“The Chief did a superlative job. Being the CJ is a miserably difficult task in the best of times, and her draw was nothing like the best of times. Whoever succeeds her will have to steel themselves for a lot of unflattering comparisons.”

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley expressed concern over who will be chosen by Gov. Newsom as her successor, saying:

“I have a great deal of admiration for Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. She has seen California’s justice system through challenging times with grace and decisiveness. I am deeply concerned that Governor Newsom will be the person selecting a replacement—his track record for appointments to key positions is wanting.”

‘Brilliant Mind’

Then a member of the Third District Court of Appeal, she was nominated by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on July 22, 2010, to become the 28th chief justice of California. The State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation rated her “exceptionally well-qualified” for the post and the commission’s chair, Woodland Hills probate attorney Alice Salvo, credited her with possessing a “brilliant mind,” and being a person who “brings a sense of joyful enthusiasm to the performance of them.”

She was confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments on Aug. 25, 2010, and was elected to the office on Nov. 2. Her term began on Jan. 3, 2011, when Chief Justice Ronald M. George stepped down.

It was reportedly George who persuaded Schwarzenegger to appoint Cantil-Sakauye (who then went by “Sakauye”). (At the time, she was a Republican, as are Schwarzenegger and George, but she dropped her party affiliation in 2018, becoming an independent.)

Hertzberg Comments

California Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg, D-San Fernando Valley, yesterday alluded to George’s role in the selection of Cantil-Sakauye as chief justice. He said:

“Ron George and Arnold Schwarzenegger did an excellent job in selecting Tani Cantil-Sakauye to serve as Chief Justice. I worked very closely with her for many years and found her to be completely accessible, an extraordinary advocate for her branch and a thoughtful and bold jurist. Her state of judiciary presentations before the joint houses were masterful in presentation and visionary in her jurisprudential thinking.”

Hertzberg, a candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, added:

“I am not happy she has decided to retire. California needs her.”

Deukmejian Appointee

Cantil-Sakauye’s judicial career began in 1990 when Gov. George Deukmejian placed her on the Sacramento Municipal Court (with Gov. Pete Wilson elevating her to the county’s Superior Court in 1997 and Schwarzenegger conferring a Court of Appeal appointment on her in 2005).

At a dinner on Jan. 27, 2012, at which Deukmejian and Cantil-Sakauye were honored as Metropolitan News-Enterprise persons of the year, the chief justice recalled babysitting for the Deukmejians’ children when George Deukmejian was a young state senator and she was “the kid down the street.” She told her co-honoree:

“[N]ever once when you hired me [in 1988 as a deputy legal affairs secretary], or promoted me [to deputy legislative secretary in 1989], or appointed me to the bench, did I play the babysitter card. But if you were governor today and the judicial branch were in the financial state that it is, I would play the babysitter card.”

Sakauye is the daughter of farm workers. Her mother was Filipino and her father was Filipino and Portuguese.

Her stances have included calling for an end to the cash bail system and calling for an end to immigration officer “stalking undocumented immigrants” at California courthouses.

State Supreme Court justices slated to be on the Nov. 8 ballot are Martin Jenkins and Patricia Guerrero, appointed by Newsom, and Joshua Groban and Goodwin Liu, named to the court by Gov. Jerry Brown. There is no organized opposition to their retention.




Chief Justice Offers Reflections


I have informed Governor Gavin Newsom that I will not seek re-election as Chief Justice of California and will conclude my judicial service when my current term of office ends. And of course, I will support the smooth transition of Judicial Branch leadership. Through his efforts, and those of recent governors, he will have a diverse pool of exceptionally well qualified jurists and legal professionals to choose from, and I believe the judiciary, the courts, and access to justice in California will be in good hands.

My first interaction with our justice system was when my family faced eviction from our home and my mother felt helpless. As the daughter of farmworkers, I experienced in my community what it was like to stand up for your rights and demand protections. As a wife I felt the impact of unjust Japanese Internment on my in-laws. As a judge I saw the devastating effects of family violence and established the first court in Sacramento dedicated solely to domestic violence issues. As Chief Justice I continue to keep in mind the faces behind the cases and remain focused on the goal of providing all Californians with equal, fair, and accessible justice.

A graduate of a public school, community college, and public university, I am proud to have served the people of California to the best of my ability at every level of our state court system.

The support and encouragement of my family, my extended Filipino family, minority bar associations, and numerous role models and mentors throughout my public service career have enabled me to achieve and succeed even under sometimes difficult circumstances. I am grateful to them all.

My career as chief justice is bookended by the Great Recession and administrative challenges at the beginning and now an historic judicial branch budget and the persisting difficulties of a Global Pandemic. Throughout my tenure, I have been privileged to serve in government with so many dedicated public servants and advocates: three governors; successive Senate Pro Terns, Assembly Speakers, and legislative members; justice partners and stakeholders involved with every part of our court system; as well as the judicial officers, court professionals, and the staff who serve on the Judicial Council of California and its advisory bodies. Their collegiality and professionalism have enabled us to move mountains—making sound statewide policy decisions and implementing an array of court programs and initiatives to benefit the public.

For me, collegiality with my bench colleagues was also critical to my service as a justice on the court of appeal and as Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of California, along once again with a wonderful and brilliant professional staff. We discussed, debated, and sometimes disagreed, but we were always focused on the rule of law and what was right and just.

I have taken, and administered, many oaths during my public service career, but no matter how many times I hear an oath “...that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” it always resonates. Each generation must renew and refresh our constitutional democracy. I truly appreciate the opportunities previous governors, judicial branch leadership, and the People of California have given me to support, defend, and enhance the rule of law.

I have said before that I hold my office in trust until it is time for the next leaders to protect and expand access to justice—that time is now.




Governor Comments on Chief Justice’s Decision



Born and raised in Sacramento by farmworker parents, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye learned early on the importance of knowing your rights and pushing back against injustice. She served with distinction at every level of the state courts before breaking barriers as the first person of color and the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice.

A fierce defender of access to the courts, she fought against immigrant enforcement raids at courthouses targeting vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime. During the pandemic, her tireless efforts modernized operations and expanded access to services at California’s courts, while retaining jobs and safe in-person access for those who need it. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has been a leading voice for bail reform, calling out its disproportionate impacts on low-income people, and has raised awareness about the unfair financial hardships caused by fines and fees on those unable to afford them.

From the wake of the Great Recession to a global pandemic, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has led with a deep dedication to the rule of law, California values and the highest ideals of public service. On behalf of a grateful state, I thank Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye for her nearly four decades of service to the people of California and wish her well in her next chapter.


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