Alumna tapped as chief justice: Cantil-Sakauye would set precedents for California Supreme Court
July 23, 2010
By Clifton B. Parker
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has named Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye as his choice for California’s next Supreme Court chief justice, positioning the trailblazing UC Davis alumna to become the first Asian American to lead the state’s judiciary.
If confirmed by voters in November, she would succeed Chief Justice Ronald George, who recently announced his retirement, giving the state Supreme Court its first female majority.
Cantil-Sakauye, who earned both her law and undergraduate degrees at UC Davis, has served as an associate justice for the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento since 2005.
Prior to that, she was a Sacramento Superior Court judge (1997 to 2004) and a Sacramento County Municipal Court judge (1990 to 1997), and worked in legislative and legal affairs for Gov. Deukmejian from 1988 to 1990. She joined the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in 1984 and worked as a deputy district attorney until 1988.
Distinguished history of public service
“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,” said Schwarzenegger. “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.”
Cantil-Sakauye, 50, comes from humble roots. Of Filipino and Portuguese descent, she is the daughter of farm workers who taught her that hard work would lead to a good future. During college, Cantil-Sakauye waited tables. After graduation from law school, she worked as a blackjack dealer in Reno because she could not immediately find a job in law, according to a profile in Sacramento Lawyer.
The UC Davis alumna has kept close ties with the School of Law and has been a guest speaker in the King Hall Outreach Program. She received her bachelor’s degree in rhetoric in 1980 and her law degree in 1984.
“We are proud that a UC Davis alum has been nominated as chief justice of the California Supreme Court, one of the most prestigious judicial posts in the nation,” said Kevin Johnson, dean of the School of Law. “Justice Cantil-Sakauye is eminently qualified for the post.
“We are especially proud that, when she becomes chief justice, UC Davis School of Law alums will hold leadership roles of the California Supreme Court and the California State Senate (Senate President Pro Tempore is alum Darrell Steinberg).”
A dream come true
Cantil-Sakauye said of the big announcement, “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 Gov. 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.”
Following dreams as a young person is something Cantil-Sakauye knows about. While growing up, she received a good education; despite their relative poverty, her parents managed to educate all four of their children. Circumstances were so difficult that Christmas presents were often practical items like a shower cap and a robe, and the family did not buy new clothes, soda pop and potato chips.
Cantil-Sakauye, a Republican, is a member of the California Judicial Council, and is vice chair of the 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, which is dedicated to promoting civility, ethics and professionalism in the law.
Married to a police officer
A Sacramento resident, she is married to a Sacramento police officer, and active in the Methodist Church, Girl Scouts and an Asian athletic foundation in Sacramento.
UC Davis connections to the state’s high court also include Cruz Reynoso, professor emeritus of law, who served on the California Supreme Court from 1982 to 1987. He joined the UC Davis law school faculty in 2001.
The governor’s nomination for chief justice must be submitted to the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Once confirmed by the commission, the nominee will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot for voter approval.
Return to the previous page