California Chief Justice Talks Supreme Court Retirement

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A major change is coming to the third branch of the California government.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced last week that she would step down in January after 12 years as head of the state Supreme Court. Cantil-Sakauye, a moderate, guided the court through severe budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession and is known for fostering a culture of collaboration on the bench.

The daughter of farm workers, Cantil-Sakauye grew up in Sacramento and then attended UC Davis and its law school. After spending two decades as a judge, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to the High Court, where she began serving in 2011. She became the first person of color and second woman to serve as a judge. chief.

While in court, Cantil-Sakauye defended the end of cash bail and criticized the Trump administration for allowing federal immigration authorities to make arrests at California courthouses. After U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, Cantil-Sakauye publicly renounced her Republican Party affiliation, saying she was concerned about growing political polarization.

I recently spoke to Cantil-Sakauye, 62, about his career and his decision to retire. We also talked about what happened in the U.S. Supreme Court, including the leaked draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and the aftermath for her and the California justice system.

Here is our conversation, slightly edited for clarity and space:

You said you’re choosing to retire now because you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished on the pitch. What are you most proud of? Is this a special case?

I look back with warmth and pride as the Supreme Court over the past 12 years appointed five new justices – five people who were essentially strangers to each other. And we got together. We have trust and collegiality and we try ideas on each other. And we grow together, we learn — I learn from my colleagues.

So I’m proud that we’ve been able to maintain that courtesy and trust over the decades. This is not a special case. It’s our way of approaching all cases, which made working with them so enjoyable and very hard to leave.

This spirit of compromise on the bench is particularly impressive in light of the divisions on the United States Supreme Court. How did you manage to maintain this collegiality?

Five members currently serving on our seven-member tribunal were nominated by Democrats, either Governor Jerry Brown or Governor Gavin Newsom. And two of us were appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger. And we’re quite diverse ethnically, gender, age, and experience.

But we have a vetting process that really looks at the whole person, in terms of their ability to sit on a review court and work collaboratively with others.

You identify as a centrist. Do you think having a moderate Chief Justice helped build consensus?

I think it doesn’t hurt. My colleagues will also say, I think, that we understand that our role is to guide the law, to clarify it for lower courts, practitioners and the public. So we can start, for example, with a broad opinion, but as we weigh each one, we start to narrow it down because we realize that we don’t need to speak so broadly. We are more geared towards providing advice and clarification on California law which I think makes the difference in why we are able to agree.

What was your reaction to the leaked draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which revealed that Roe v. Wade could be cancelled? Have you felt the need to better secure drafts in your yard?

It was surprising. It surprised us all. But we haven’t changed our practice or our procedure. We didn’t think this could happen in our yard. We just noticed more the fact that, oh my. It is not good for the confidence of the court and the development of solid ideas.

Do you have a short list of who you want to replace yourself for, or a preference for what their political ideology might be? Do you prefer another centrist?

I, of course, have people in mind if I was asked, and it’s not based on their centrism but rather on the fact that they have skills – people skills and legal skills and administrative skills and management skills – and therefore I think they are going to be open to this collaborative effort that has been created in California to govern our justice system.

Did Newsom ask you for help choosing your replacement?

No, he hasn’t.

Do you know what you will be doing in January?

I do not know. I think that’s probably part of my anxiety – I always knew what I was going to do next January.

You recently said in an interview that you were done with politics. Is it always true?

This is still true, if not stronger than ever.

And finally, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing state courts today?

The threat of sustainable funding. We are a third branch of government, but we lobby for our budget the same way as any other state-funded entity. We have no say in the budget process except to make the request.

When I started this job as Chief Justice, our budget was cut by billions. We were closing courthouses. We were closing services. We were on leave. When I was an appellate judge, I worked without pay, like so many of my colleagues, to keep our doors open. We rely on the civic understanding of the executive branch and the legislative branch for our existence. And I think that’s still a threat.

For $2.7 million: an English country-style house in Carmel Valley, a 1923 farmhouse in Laurel Canyon and a three-bedroom retreat just blocks from the beach in Oceanside.


Today’s tip comes from Susan Weikel Morrison, who recommends a trip to Mendocino County:

“Noyo Harbor just south of Fort Bragg is so charming and sublime. It’s at the mouth of the River Noyo – with all the beauty and character of the North Coast, but without the crowds of the more popular spots.

The main bustle is on the water, with an almost constant passage of small fishing boats and pleasure yachts, as well as the occasional canoe and Coast Guard cutter. You can rent the canoes and paddle yourself, or you can see the harbor and the sea on a small tour boat.

The land area features several quaint restaurants with great food and harbor views, serving mostly locals, as well as a number of marine service shops which make it clear that this is primarily a working harbor rather than a tourist spot.

If you follow the street past the shops you will come to the harbor entrance where you can stroll the beach, fish from the pier and watch the sunsets over the ocean.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


Trevor Rainbolt, a 23-year-old online video producer in Los Angeles, is one of the biggest GeoGuessr players in the world.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game, the premise is simple: when you’re looking at a computer or phone, you’ve stumbled across the world in Google Street View somewhere and you have to guess, as fast as you can, exactly where you are. are . You can click to browse roads and towns, looking for distinct landmarks or language. The more you guess, the more points you score.

Rainbolt is part of an elite group that can identify in seconds whether an ordinary-looking street is in Lake Tahoe, Siberia, or Japan. “It’s like a magician,” he said. “For the magician, the trick is easy, but for everyone else, it’s much more difficult.”

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