Tuesday, November 23, 2010
There's a new Chief in town...
Last week, I had the honor of being in the audience as newly-confirmed Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye spoke to our Judicial Process class. Our teacher, Judge Lawrence Brown, introduced her as "one of those people who needs no introduction" but emphasized that she is well-known for being a down to earth and "decent" individual. Not only can you tell from the way Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauya presents herself that this is true, but many others that know her have said the same, including Professor Clayton Tanaka and Justice George Nicholson. She gives lawyers a good name, and is a shining example to others in the legal profession.
She spoke about her legal career, the challenges of being a woman and trying to advance in her legal career, and how she has dealt with these challenges. Below are a couple of the topics she discussed.
Justice Cantil-Sakauye's career began at the Sacramento District Attorney's Office as a prosecutor. She then moved on to become a Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary to Governor George Duekmejian, where she worked under the governor's advisor, now Justice Vance Raye. There, whenever people called to talk to Raye, they would reach her first, but did not wish to speak to her. Thus, she could not do her job. When she conveyed this to Raye, he told her to let these callers know that he REFUSED to talk to them, thus EMPOWERING her to do her job.
She was then appointed by the governor as a judge at the Sacramento Municipal Court at the young age of 31. She realized there that she was treated differently than a male judge would be. The way she dealt with this was to remind herself that this treatment was unintentional. She considered this treatment to be a product of our society and culture, and not directed personally at her, and that "made all the difference in the world." She was confident in her capabilities and knew she was a prepared and fair judge. I feel that adopting this outlook was a wise decision and career move in that it probably kept her from over-analyzing the actions and intentions of people in her court room, and kept her from doubting herself.
Now that she has been nominated and confirmed as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, many have criticized her as being nominated based solely on her minority status as a woman and a person of color. How does she respond to this? She believes that this criticism is very uninformed, as she had to go through an intense investigative process in order to be found as qualified. In fact, she received the highest rating from the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation: “exceptionally well-qualified.” She had to build a new reputation every time she changed positions and had an excellent reputation throughout her career. In addition, she has broad experience from being one of the few lawyers to dabble in the legislative branch, as well as being a prosecutor, a judge, and a justice. "I like to be underestimated," she says. To those that take the time to look beyond her race and gender, they will see that she is truly brilliant and will without a doubt do great things for our state and justice system.
As a student of King Hall, I think I speak for all of us when I say we are so proud to come from this excellent school and to stand among such accomplished graduates as California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye!