Declaring that the courts’ “number one goal now is access, fairness, diversity, and inclusion,” new Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero delivered her first State of the Judiciary address to the California Legislature yesterday afternoon. (Transcript here; video here.) Besides members of the Senate and Assembly, Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Associate Justices Carol Corrigan, Leondra Kruger, Joshua Groban, Martin Jenkins, and Kelli Evans attended.
As the successor to retired Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Guerrero noted the historical significance of “the first transition of judicial leadership from one female chief justice to another and from one person of color . . . to another.” She is also the first Latina chief justice and she thanked her father in Spanish for supporting her.
The Chief Justice said that “our state’s diversity is a strength” and that she and Cantil-Sakauye “are both the beneficiaries certainly of our own hard work, but also a decades-long commitment to building a pathway to the bench for qualified minority candidates by successive governors, the legal profession, and the judicial branch in partnership with bar associations and educators.”
She praised her four most recent predecessors, including Chief Justice Rose Bird, who Guerrero said “helped generations to come by breaking gender barriers in the courts.”
Mental health and housing
Guerrero “applaud[ed]” Governor Newsom and the legislators for their “efforts in exploring ways to address the needs of Californians with untreated mental health, substance abuse challenges, and in crisis to gain access to housing, treatment, and care.”
The court currently has pending before it an original writ petition — filed two months ago (here and here) — challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted CARE Act, high-profile legislation that the Governor described as “a new framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need.”
The Chief Justice said the judiciary has “been moving from in-line to online whenever we can do so in the most effective way and when permitted.”
She acknowledged that “there are still challenges with the digital divide and technology,” but claimed, “what we learned during the pandemic is that ‘remote’ worked for pretty much everyone involved” and she pledged to work towards “solutions that are fair, equitable, and just.”
Guerrero said, “we are all also keenly aware of another major transformative driver — and that is the impact of climate change on our world, nation, and state.” She reported that “the Judicial Council has created an environmental program that’s focused primarily on water law issues” and that “we are following up on these efforts with an Environmental Law Summit this summer, along with publications, podcasts, and more training on issues related to the complex areas of water law, climate change, and environmental litigation.”
Cheryl Miller in The Recorder: “Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero Lauds Remote Technology in First State of the Judiciary Address“
Malcolm Maclachlan in the Daily Journal: “Chief Justice tells lawmakers court must be modernized and budgets protected“