Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Page 2


PERSONALITY PROFILE: Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye

Chief Justice Juggles Governance of Branch and Family With Grace


By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer



HOSE WHO KNOW CHIEF JUSTICE TANI GORRE CANTIL-SAKAUYE and watch her in action as she goes about her day-to-day activities describe her as an expert multi-tasker.

This phrase was employed by persons who went to law school with her, worked with her, and serve the administration of the branch with her—and all suggest that this ability will serve her well as the head of the state’s judiciary.

Tani Cantil-Sakauye, far right, is sworn into office as a justice for the Third District Court of Appeal in January 2005. Then-Chief Justice Ronald M. George, left, administered the oath. Also pictured are Cantil-Sakauye’s brother and sister-in-law, Allen and Melissa Sakauye; sister Kim Cantil; husband Mark Sakauye, and daughters, Clare and Hana.

Judicial Council member Dave Rosenberg, who is presiding judge of the Yolo Superior Court, notes that Cantil-Sakauye, “really has three jobs,” chairing the branch’s policy-making agency, presiding over the state’s highest court, and leading a branch struggling with crippling budget cuts and a variety of divisive issues.

But at home with her family, husband Mark Sakauye says she is “just mom” to their two teenage girls.

“There’s no work interference” with bringing up the children, he says.

Sakauye, a retired police lieutenant who is now providing consulting services for transit agencies in Stockton and Sacramento, says his wife is always able to make time to attend their daughters’ cheerleading and basketball events, serve as a Girl Scout troop leader, and make cookies and candies together.

Hectic Pace

Back in February, a month after assuming her role as chief justice, Cantil-Sakauye spoke at a Los Angeles County Bar Association event about her frenetic schedule: how she was flying up and down the state, and across the country, dealing with lost baggage and having paperwork “shooting under [her] door” nightly.

By all appearances, the hectic pace of her life has not slowed since. On a recent afternoon, when she sat down to be interviewed for this profile, a chorus of beeps, clicks and buzzes were emitted from her cell phone, desk phone and computer throughout the appointment, but she remained unruffled by the background noise and focused on the task at hand.

It has been, she acknowledges, “an incredibly challenging year,” and her role as chief justice is “absolutely all-time consuming.”

The chief justice says she works “seven days a week,” and “thank God it’s fascinating,” so “it doesn’t feel like work at all.” But, there are aspects of her position which she is “less thrilled about,” she reflects.

“The administrative side is the most difficult,” Cantil-Sakauye says, especially in light of the $653 million in cumulative reductions the Legislature has made to the judicial branch budget over the past four years.

“Tensions are high,” she notes, and “we should all recognize that tensions are high” due to the judiciary’s dire fiscal situation.

As for what can be done to address the branch’s fiscal woes, Cantil-Sakauye says she wanted “to know what people thought” would be the best course of action, since “my whole life, from growing up…has informed me that the best decision is one that is based on facts.”

Survey Sent

One of her first directives after taking office, she recounts, was having a survey sent to trial judges about what changes should be done, noting: “I read all of them and then I made lists from them.”

From the responses, Cantil-Sakauye says, she became aware of disenchantment with the Judicial Council—the policy-making and rule-making arm of the judiciary, which the chief justice chairs—and the Administrative Office of the Courts, which provides staff-support for the council.

The AOC, she heard, “was over-staffed and ineffective.” She notes that such “wasn’t my experience,” having served on the Judicial Council prior to her appointment as chief justice, as one of the three Court of Appeal members. But, she says, she will listen to “a contrary voice,” and named a task force to evaluate and assess the AOC.

She also heard complaints about how the Judicial Council operated. Cantil-Sakauye acknowledges the council “is not a representative body,” but comments that, “it’s not meant to be,” as it was “created to serve the public on a statewide interest.”

Still, the chief justice relates that she is “trying to open it up and trying to have new voices circulate in and out of council,” and that she thinks the council “should just open everything up to the public” to help end the perception of the body as elite and insular.

Prior to her taking the reins, major decisions were arrived at during closed sessions on Thursdays, then placed on the record at open sessions on Fridays. Cantil-Sakauye has opened the Thursday sessions to the public.

Trial Court Relations

In recent years, the Los Angeles Superior Court has frequently butted heads with branch leadership over governance issues, with former Presiding Judge Charles W. “Tim” McCoy publicly challenging the AOC’s response to the branch’s fiscal concerns as underestimating the problem and ignoring the need to act.

Current Presiding Judge Lee Edmon says, however, that she believes Cantil-Sakauye “cares deeply about the courts of California and is investing her energy tirelessly on issues important to the branch.”

Edmon says the chief justice “recognizes that the branch is severely underfunded and is fighting to restore that funding,” and that she “is attempting to take the branch in a new direction.”

Cantil-Sakauye and husband Mark Sakauye on Maui in 1994.

Cantil-Sakauye insists she wants to reach out “to all groups” and extends an invitation for anyone to “contact me and be a part of the discussion” since she feels it is “very important that we understand each other’s issues and be able to have a conversation that doesn’t tear each other down.”

The chief justice also contends that it is “not of any value to turn on ourselves” and that even though members of the judiciary may “have different ways of resolving all of the concerns” affecting the branch, “it is something we can resolve ourselves,” without resorting to legislatively mandated changes, such as those proposed by AB 1208.

The bill, introduced last February by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Industry, proposes increasing administrative and financial autonomy for trial courts. It is being backed by the Alliance of California Judges.

Formed in 2009 when Ronald George was chief justice, the alliance describes itself has having been organized to serve as “a meaningful voice to independently advocate and communicate on behalf of judges” on issues such as “state-wide court management and budgeting.”

The group has been strongly critical of the judiciary’s leadership and what it perceives as the centralization of authority within the AOC and Judicial Council, and the mismanagement of the branch.

Over the course of 2011, the group has called on Cantil-Sakauye to consider diverting funds slated for technology projects—specifically the $1.9 billion computerized case management system that has been in development for over nine years—and the Judicial Council’s staff to court operations in order to offset budget cuts to the judicial branch.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan Lopez-Giss, an alliance director, acknowledges that “this past year has presented a series of challenges for the new chief,” and that the group “applaud[s] her for loosening the rules for public comment at council meetings and creating committees to explore cost cutting measures.”

When Cantil-Sakauye first took office, Lopez-Giss says, “we were hopeful that she would rein in the excesses of the AOC” on the California Case Management System, court maintenance and court construction, and that “she would embrace democratization of the Judicial Council and that she would implement policies providing for greater transparency.”

However, the alliance director asserts, “the entrenched bureaucracy in San Francisco continues to dictate branch priorities,” and laments she that trial courts were forced to lay off employees and shorten operating hours while “the AOC has continued to hire.”

Lopez-Giss warns that “until this chief is willing to take on the bureaucracy, embrace democracy, and place into action the words ‘our local courts are the number one priority,’ she will continue to face challenges.”

If anyone can handle these challenges though, it is Cantil-Sakauye, her husband says.

“She’s is the best person for that job,” Sakauye maintains. “She’s calm, she’s always been really good under pressure, and she never gets upset about anything.”

The chief justice also “has the right intent,” always looking to do “what is best for the state,” Sakauye claims. “And she’s the smartest person—but I could be a bit biased on that.”

Sakauye says he expected the first year to be “crazier” than the remaining years in Cantil-Sakauye’s tenure, since “she really wanted to make this first year time to reach out and talk to people,” and is traveling more than she likely will be in the future.

Family Life

Cantil-Sakauye says she is “trying” to balance her work obligations with her home life, but she thinks she “need[s] to get better at it.”

Thankfully, she has “a tremendous husband who is so understanding” and “two kids who are completely oblivious to everything I’m doing,” Cantil-Sakauye says.

The chief justice and her husband celebrated their 17th anniversary in December. They have two daughters, Hana and Clare, ages 15 and 13.

She and Sakauye went to the same high school, but he was a grade behind, so she says they never became acquainted. However, he was not oblivious to her, saying he “always liked her.”

Cantil-Sakauye “was always pretty independent,”  and “she was smart, and she was definitely driven,” even in high school, her husband recalls. “Those things were pretty impressive.”

They were both at UC Davis at the same time, and Sakauye says he sometimes saw Cantil-Sakauye while she was working as a deputy district attorney and he as a police officer, but they “didn’t really cross paths” until they recognized each other at a Sacramento Asian Peace Officer Association dinner in 1992.

Cantil-Sakauye was on the municipal court at that time, and she recalls thinking,  when they began talking, that “he was just buttering me up to be the keynote speaker at an event.”

A friendship blossomed, which evolved into a romantic relationship, and the couple wed in 1994. They had their wedding invitations engraved with the quotation: “Love is Friendship that Has Caught Fire.”

Cantil-Sakauye says her husband “makes me laugh until we cry,” and that “we still hold hands” when they go places together.

Time together has become a bit harder to come by this past year, since Cantil-Sakauye has begun staying in San Francisco during the week, apart from her husband and family in Sacramento.

Sakauye says that he and the girls miss her, but “we support her completely.”

When the chief justice position was offered to his wife, he says, they sat down with their children and talked about how this might mean for all of them. “It was a family decision” for Cantil-Sakauye to accept the post, Sakauye says.

Even though Cantil-Sakauye’s new job keeps her busy, he maintains that the children “know they’re our priority.”

The chief justice usually comes home for the weekends, and she will spend time on the phone or reading cases while she’s there, but then she will “stop and we’ll eat dinner together,” or “we’ll sit and play games, do puzzles, ride bikes, go see a movie, whatever the girls want to do,” Sakauye says.

Court of Appeal Justices Ronald B. Robie and Vance W. Raye of the Sacramento-based Third District both comment on the chief justice’s family-focused nature, each using the phrase “devoted mother.”

Robie says he often sees her while attending school events with his grandchildren, and Raye says Cantil-Sakauye “is always there when needed” by her family and friends.

Sacramento attorney Julia Brynelson, who first met Cantil-Sakauye 20 years ago while in law school, says the chief justice is “a terrific friend” who always “makes herself available and includes her friends in her family life.”

Brynelson relates that “Tani is comfortable wherever she goes,” and “can eat at a fancy restaurant or off of paper plates.”

She says she and her husband purchased their current house from Cantil-Sakauye, and “one of the most dear things she did was when we closed on the house, her family brought over pizza and we all sat on the floor in the dining room—because there was no furniture in the house—and ate pizza, to celebrate.”

San Francisco attorney Cindy Lee, whose friendship with Cantil-Sakauye also dates back to their time together in law school, says “the one endearing and unchanging quality about Tani which I believe has sustained her, and is unwaivering, is her grace.”

The chief justice is “elegant, dignified, confident and has a generosity of spirit which is demonstrated every single day in her work and family life,” Lee says.

“Whether she dealing with the unpleasant task of addressing budget cuts and issues within the legal profession while juggling her family obligations, she is able to handle it in a smart, positive and efficient fashion,” Lee remarks, and “she is a person which deserves every honor bestowed on her.”

Childhood Memories

Cantil-Sakauye is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the head of the state’s judiciary.

She was born on Oct. 19, 1959, to a Filipina farm worker mother and a Filipino/Portuguese father, born in Hawaii, who worked in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations before coming to Sacramento.

Cantil-Sakauye is the youngest of Clarence Freitas Cantil and Mary Edellion Gorre Cantil’s four children, and both of her parents came from large families, with nine or 10 siblings each.

The future chief justice, far right, at the age of 4, posing with eldest brother Mark, older sister Kim and older brother Clem at their childhood home in Sacramento in 1964.

Her mother’s relatives “all lived nearby,” and “everyone had children,” with each family having “at least two, and some as many as six,” so her childhood is “full of memories of family and cousins and dinners,” Cantil-Sakauye says.

“We all grew up together,” playing ball, ditch, and hide-n-seek, she recalls. For the most part, she claims, they were “all pretty well-behaved,” because there was always an adult around to keep an eye on them.

She does, however, recall being taken by the ear when acting too unruly.

The chief justice says that there was a strong sense of community, and of activism as well. “I witnessed a lot of grassroots organization,” Cantil-Sakauye says, and it “rubbed off” on her, by instilling the belief that “you can organize and make things happen.”

She attended a Catholic elementary school, and moved to a public school in sixth grade, which she describes as a “pretty ideal environment” to be in, since it was “so diverse and integrated, and we didn’t even know it.”

Cantil-Sakauye says “there weren’t the racial tensions you hear about nowadays,” and her friends crossed all social classes and boundaries.

“I wasn’t part of any particular clique,” she mentions. Cantil-Sakauye was a cheerleader, and homecoming queen, but she says her best friend was “a jock,” and she had friends who were “the stoners”—a slang term referring to lethargic individuals often associated with habitual users of cannabis—and “the geeks” as well.

After classes, she worked at a sandwich shop called Hannibals, which had been located right across the street from the courthouse where the Third District Court of Appeal sits.

“I’m sure my colleagues from the court had no idea that the girl behind the counter would ever be sitting…down the hall,” Cantil-Sakauye says.

Working there, she recounts, taught her “a lot about efficiency and being busy,” relating her supervisor had a saying that “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

This lesson was so instilled in her, the chief justice says, that to this day, she is “a little cleaning fanatic.”

Higher Education

She graduated from C. K. McClatchy High School in 1977 and proceeded to Sacramento City College.

“I didn’t think about going to a four-year college,”  the chief justice relates, since no one in her family had ever done so. Her mother had graduated from high school, but her father only had a “third to sixth grade education,” she says.

“I chose Sacramento City College because I had heard good things about it and because I could walk to it,” Cantil-Sakauye says.

Cantil-Sakauye declared “speech and debate” as her major. She joined the team since her that’s what her sister had done, and she was impressed that her sister got to go to “some pretty exotic places” like San Jose and San Mateo for debate tournements.

Her team won a spot at a national competition in Washington D.C., taking Cantil-Sakauye outside of Sacramento for the first time, aside from attending her grandmother’s funeral.

The team traveled three days by train to the competition, and even though they each spent the whole time confined to eating, sleeping, and sitting in their chairs, she says, “God it was fun!”

After a year at the community college, Cantil-Sakauye earned enough credits for her associate’s degree and unsure of what to do next, she decided to follow a friend to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

She transferred in as a junior, but was living in a freshman dorm and, she says, the experience was “kind of like wearing shoes that are too small.” Cantil-Sakauye says she realized quickly that “this is not what I really want to do,” and transferred to U.C. Davis after six months.

After arriving at her new college, the chief justice-to-be threw herself into her studies. “I didn’t do anything but school and work,” she says. Having decided she wanted to go to law school, she was “sort of in a hurry to get out.”

The idea, Cantil-Sakauye says, came from her speech and debate teammates from the community college, who had told her they all planned to attend law school and encouraged her to apply.

Prior to becoming an attorney herself, she says, her only experience with one was as a child, when her mother took her to hear a speech by Gloria Ochoa, a Filipina lawyer.

The chief justice says she does not recall much about the speech, or how she came to attend, but she remembers her mother elbowing her and whispering: “You could do that.”

At that time, she says, “I didn’t even know what a lawyer was,…but I knew it impressed my mother greatly, and very few things impressed my mother.”

Cantil-Sakauye was able to finish college in three years—while also holding down a job waiting tables at AJ Bumps, where she says she made more in tips than she did her first year as a lawyer—graduating, with honors, in 1980.

She spent a year visiting the Philippines before entering the Martin Luther King Jr. School of Law at U.C. Davis in 1981.

During law school, Cantil-Sakauye took the time to enjoy some intra-mural athletics, joining a basketball team, flag football team, and also learning to golf.

“There’s nothing to do in Davis,” she says, “so you either join teams and play, or you sit at home and do nothing.”

Although not naturally-gifted, the chief justice says she is “a really determined athlete,” who “cannot score worth beans” but plays “really good defense.”

Her basketball team was named “Justice O’ and the Supremes,” in honor of Sandra Day O’Connor’s historic appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

They had T-shirts printed with the team’s name, and sent one to O’Connor to make her an honorary member of the team, teammate Lee recalls, noting that “Justice O’Connor accepted that honor and sent us back a letter acknowledging the same.” She muses:

“Little did we know at that time, in our own midst, we had a future chief justice of the California Supreme Court.”

As dismal as the team’s win-loss record was, Lee says it was a welcome diversion from the rigors of law school.

“The other thing we did to work off stress is to meet after studying at the library in the town’s 24-hour diner and eat junk food,” Lee says. The chief justice’s fare of choice was, and still is, French fries and Thousand Island dressing, Lee reports.

Early Career

After graduating in 1984, Cantil-Sakauye worked briefly as a cocktail waitress and as a blackjack dealer with former law school roommate Cynthia Couglin at a Harrah’s casino while waiting for the results of the bar exam.

Couglin, now a Sacramento attorney, notes with a laugh that “what they wear up there now is quite different that what we used to wear,” as the new outfits are much “more revealing.”

Cantil-Sakauye takes her oath of office as a judge for the Sacramento Superior Court in 1990 from then-Presiding Judge Gail Ohanesian.

Cantil-Sakauye says she had planned to find a job as a corporate lawyer, but “it was a tight job market,” and she was fortunate to land a job with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, since some of the externs for whom positions had been held did not pass the bar exam.

“At this point, I didn’t know where the courthouse is,” the chief justice relates. “I’d never seen, in person, a courtroom.”

But her first week, she was assigned to prosecute a misdemeanor DUI.

“The case was a drunk person leaving a bar and the witnesses were bartenders and waitresses,” Cantil-Sakauye recalls.

Fortunately, from her own experience, she says, “I knew what bartenders and waitresses do,” and “I knew from my own work there was no way they were watching one patron drink”—but “if that person was drunk, they knew it.”

Cantil-Sakauye says that “I knew exactly what to ask them,” during examination and cross, and she ended up winning the case.

Being a lawyer, she says, was an eye-opening experience for her, since she “wasn’t really used to questioning authority, or questioning anyone,” and she was “used to…letting people finish their sentences.”

When dealing with other attorneys, she says, “you have to jump in,” since “some…don’t observe periods or commas” when speaking—“and that was new to me.”

Cantil-Sakauye recalls thinking she was going to stay with the D.A.’s Office “forever,” and “struggled” with her decision to join the staff of then-Gov. George Deukmejian—her fellow “Person of the Year” honoree—in 1988. She worked for the governor as his deputy legal affairs secretary and as a deputy legislative secretary.

Before Deukmejian left office, he appointed Cantil-Sakauye to the Sacramento Municipal Court, where she became its youngest judge in 1990.

“I admired all the judges in Sacramento County,” she says, reflecting “it was such a magnificent bench,” so “it was kind of scary” to join them.

The chief justice says she feels “gifted to be given such good people” to work with on the court, describing them as “so gracious and generous” to her.

One of them was Judge Cecily Bond, whom Cantil-Sakauye terms a “larger than life judge.”

She and Cantil-Sakauye served on the Sacramento Superior Court bench together, and Bond says her first impression of the future chief justice was of a “vivacious, articulate and bright young woman who I hoped would go a long way.”

Bond, now in private dispute resolution, says “it is not surprising to me” that “she certainly did.”

The chief justice, Bond relates, has “always been a very good multi-tasker,” and she predicts this “will stand her in good stead” in light of the multitude of duties and obligations Cantil-Sakauye bears in her role as the head of the judiciary.

Judicial Appointments

In 1997, Cantil–Sakauye was elevated to the Sacramento Superior Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson.

Robie, the superior court’s presiding judge at that time, appointed Cantil-Sakauye to preside over the first court in the county dedicated solely to domestic violence cases.

“It was a very difficult and demanding job,” he says, but Cantil-Sakauye did “fantastic.”

Robie eventually moved to the appellate court and was joined on the Third District by Cantil-Sakauye in 2005, where they had adjoining offices.

Cantil-Sakauye is “one of the brightest people I know,” Robie says, describing her as “hardworking and extraordinarily collegial.”

He says he is impressed by the chief justice’s “ability to speak without notes in complete sentences, and eloquently at that,” as well as her “unpretentious” demeanor.

In 2008, then-Chief Justice Ronald M. George appointed Cantil-Sakauye to the Judicial Council. She has served as vice-chair of the Executive and Planning Committee, vice-chair of the Rules and Projects Committee, chair of the Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency for the Judicial Branch, and co-chair of the Judicial Recruitment and Retention Working Group.

Cantil-Sakauye was also a member of the Judicial Council’s Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure Task Force and chair of its Best Practices Domestic Violence subcommittee.

George says that the current chief justice “demonstrated in her work on the Judicial Council an extraordinary understanding of the statewide administration of our judicial system, and certainly demonstrated a very strong commitment to that.”

Other activities have included serving as president of the Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, as a member of the California Commission for Impartial Courts, and as a special master for the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Raye, a colleague of Cantil-Sakauye on the Third District bench and also during her time with the governor’s office, says the chief justice has always demonstrated a concern for young women and minorities interested in pursuing the law.

He praises the chief justice as “an inspiration to all and a validation of the precept that talent and hard work can overcome whatever obstacles are presented by race and gender.”

Her “work ethic and self-discipline,” Raye observes, are “unparalleled.” He estimates that Cantil-Sakauye authored some 700 opinions during her time on the appellate bench.

When George announced his retirement last July, Raye says he “sauntered down the hall” to see Cantil-Sakauye and speculate together about who would be appointed as George’s successor.

Raye recalls he predicted that one of the sitting Supreme Court justices would be elevated and Cantil-Sakauye would be appointed as that justice’s replacement, but Cantil-Sakauye dismissed the idea.

One week later, Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Cantil-Sakauye as chief justice, and the California State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission rated her as exceptionally well qualified for the position.

She was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments last August, and she was sworn into office as Chief Justice of California on Jan. 3, 2011.

First Year

George says he has “heard glowing reports” about Cantil-Sakauye over the past year and “her quick mastery of her challenging duties.”

He praises the current chief as “highly intelligent, diplomatic and committed to the statewide administration of justice.” With Cantil-Sakauye at the helm, George says, he is “totally confident that the judicial branch is in the best possible hands to guide it through these difficult times we have today and into the future.”

Joining the state high court, Cantil-Sakauye relates, was “a little unnerving” since her brethren “are people with years of jurisprudence” and “are so well-respected and admired.”

Even after a year, she says, it “still is a little bit unusual to find myself in their rarified company.”

Cantil-Sakauye says the other justices “are generous and gracious and helpful to me,” and “being around them makes me a better judge.”

Her colleagues all report that Cantil-Sakauye has made a favorable impression on them this transition year.

Justice Ming Chin relates that the new chief justice “had very large shoes to fill” when she joined the court, but “she has filled them with elegance and grace and grit, and that’s a hard combination to find in one person.”

He observes that in dealing with the branch’s budget problems and the Legislature, Cantil-Sakauye “has been very, very firm” and appears to be “in full command of the situation,” but she still “doesn’t let the administrative duties get in the way of being very involve in the cases [pending before the court].”

In addition, Chin praises the chief justice’s temperament, remarking that “I’ve never heard a cross word come out of her mouth.”

Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar says the chief justice “has proved herself a strong, capable and steady leader of the state judiciary in a time of unprecedented challenge and, as well, an astute and collegial member of the court.”

Cantil-Sakauye with husband, Mark Sakauye and their daughters, Hana, center, and Clare, front, on a vacation to New York in September 2009.

Werdegar reports that Cantil-Sakauye is “always poised, and always temperate and composed in the expression of her views.”

In handling the administration of the branch, Werdegar says Cantil-Sakauye “has had to be both respectful of dissenting voices but also firm in her conviction that this is the time for a unified voice for the judicial branch,” and she opines that the chief justice “has managed that balance beautifully.”

The fact that Cantil-Sakauye “is managing a home and teenage children as well as the chief justiceship and her caseload is beyond impressive and certainly a remarkable role model to other young women who wonder if its possible to manage family and professional responsibilities,” Werdegar adds.

Justice Goodwin Liu similarly remarks that Cantil-Sakauye “is so generous with her time and extraordinarily diligent in reaching out to all sectors of the bench and bar,” and that she does this in addition to the ordinary case load that each member of the court carries.

“Frankly, I don’t know when she finds time to sleep,” he says.

‘Collegial’ Relations

Justice Marvin R. Baxter reports that Cantil-Sakauye “has gone out of her way to maintain a collegial and warm relationship with all members of the California Supreme Court,” and says she “presides over our meetings in a professional yet informal manner.”

She “hit the ground running upon taking office,” Baxter says. After being “immediately confronted with major issues confronting the judicial branch,” the chief justice “has diligently attempted to resolve them in a professional and inclusive manner,” he opines.

Baxter remarks that Cantil-Sakauye “has tremendous energy” and “is devoted to handling the responsibility of the office,” noting the “remarkable effort she has expended traveling throughout the state speaking to judges, lawyers, and community groups.”

He adds:

“I have a tremendous respect for the manner in which she has started a dialogue on governance of the judicial branch.”

Justice Carol Corrigan remarks that she has “found the new chief to be a wonderful addition to the court and a terrific leader.”

She says she was struck by the chief justice’s “willingness to let people get to know her as a person,” and that it was “surprisingly easy” to meet Cantil-Sakauye for the first time.

“It was almost as though we’d known one another for a long time,” Corrigan recalls of their initial meeting.

‘Terrific Man’

Corrigan says she also has had an opportunity to meet the chief justice’s family, and while she observes that “some kids can be very shy” or “12 going on 36,” Cantil-Sakauye’s daughters are “lovely, poised young women,” which she comments is a testament to their mother.

“They are obviously very excited about their mom’s new role, but it’s clear she is a terrific mom and they see her as mom first,” Corrigan relates.

Cantil-Sakauye is “forever going to the basketball games and volleyball games and all the things you do when you have kids,” Corrigan reports, surmising:

“I guess that would be her fourth job.”


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