December 1, 2010

The new Chief’s role as a justice

The California Bar Journal includes an interview with soon-to-be Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Most of the article is about the new Chief’s goals as head of California’s judiciary (and about her compelling personal history), but there are some insights as to how she will approach her job as a member of the Supreme Court.

The article reports that Cantil-Sakauye “feels comfortable handling administrative duties but [that] she’ll tread cautiously on the legal side, listening to and learning from her six new colleagues.” Nonetheless, she “expects to follow [Chief Justice Ronald] George’s lead on writing decisions in the toughest cases herself.”

The article does not say whether Cantil-Sakauye will seek to revive the proposal advocated by George to allow the Supreme Court to transfer death penalty appeals to the Courts of Appeal, but it does state that she “shares his often-stated frustration with the burdens of capital cases and the death penalty, an issue she characterizes as staggering.”

We’ve noted George’s public criticisms of the initiative process, but the article suggests that such public criticisms are not likely to be on Cantil-Sakauye’s agenda: “Although she shares some of George’s concerns about California’s initiative process, the criticism is tempered by her belief that ‘this is the people’s right to access. . . . It’s laborious, it’s frustrating, but I think it’s part and parcel of California’s political heritage.’”

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