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!


Betty said...

I'm really sad I missed out on getting to hear Justice Cantil-Sakauye last week! Hopefully I'll be able to catch her when she comes back to King Hall for our commencement later on in the Spring.

What is especially notable to me about her recent confirmation and what I think we also have to be proud of on top of her being a female, as you mentioned already, is the fact that she is Asian and a King Hall alum. My comment strays from being entirely relevant to solely just the topic of feminism and veers way more in the direction of just general King Hall pride, but this really just is another huge sparkling point to our school and I honestly do believe that the community we've become a part of is monumental.

King Hall is also the law school with the most diverse faculty in the country, I believe. Many cheers to UC Davis School of Law and, of course, us. :)

Alcestis said...
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Alcestis said...

I'm so glad you made a post about Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye! Although I have yet to meet her, or even get to hear her speak live, I am so excited to have the first Filipin(A) confirmed to the California Supreme Court.

Watching the confirmation hearing (at King Hall) and hearing the positive comments her appellate court colleagues and community members had to say about her, I couldn't be any prouder to be a Filipina-American King Haller.

While Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is clearly well-qualified for the position, recognized as a “ brilliant mind" and a "deep thinker," what really stood out to me during the confirmation hearing was that she was also recognized for her compassion and her ability to relate to others, especially victims.

The legal field has often been considered a harsh place, where people, especially women, have to "toughen up" or "man up" to be successful in it. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye clearly proves this wrong. Remaining true to yourself and confident in your capabilities really will make the greatest difference, even in a society and culture that suggests otherwise.

2elle said...

I'm in the judicial process class as well and was part of that lucky audience! I was so impressed with her candid discussion of her career path as well as her poise/intelligence. It's really unfortunate that the kind of criticism about her is based on race/gender instead of looking at any substantive decisions she has made. I especially hate the automatic judgement about "leaving" her high school age children to pursue her career.

Clearly, noone would ever think to even mention this if she was a man in the same position. It's such blatant sexism and just assumes that despite her brilliant career, she has sole responsability for raising her (now teenage) children.

Her response to this was: "Well she's a teenager, she doesn't want to talk to me anyways"