January 6, 2011
The California Supreme Court yesterday heard its first oral argument under Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was formally sworn in on Monday. Prior to the argument, the Clerk of the Court and Justice Kennard both commented on the significance of the moment.
Clerk of the Court Frederick Ohlrich relayed a personal anecdote to the assembled attorneys and court-watchers. He said he has announced oral argument countless times during Ronald George’s tenure as Chief Justice and never thought he would introduce a Chief Justice other than George. Ohlrich noted that George remains very active and that Ohlrich just received an e-mail from Antarctica where George is vacationing.
Once the Court took the bench, Justice Kennard said that, as the senior Justice, she was welcoming Cantil-Sakauye on behalf of the Court. Kennard then gave a moving description of the historical importance of Cantil-Sakauye’s appointment. Kennard noted that Cantil-Sakauye is only the second female Chief Justice in California Supreme Court history and the first Supreme Court Justice of Filipina origin. Kennard described the terrible discrimination that immigrants from Asia faced when they arrived in the United States, a topic we discussed in this post. She said that America at that time was an unfinished dream and that the road to equal opportunity has been a long and difficult journey, but that great progress has been made as shown by the appointment of our new Chief Justice.
The Supreme Court then heard oral argument and the new Chief Justice quickly got to business by asking questions in the first case. The new Chief continued Chief Justice George’s tradition of informing counsel when their argument time has expired, but allowing counsel to finish answering any pending question from the Court.