San Francisco—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye today announced that she would not seek re-election as Chief Justice of California in the November 2022 general election. She will end her current term on January 1, 2023, after 32 years of service at all levels of the courts of State.

As California’s 28th Chief Justice, she is the first person of color and second woman to serve as the state’s Chief Justice. During her 12-year tenure, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye envisioned an all-tiered justice system for all Californians that reflects the people and communities served by the courts. She has successfully advocated for reforms to court funding models, fees and procedures that unfairly impact the poor; adequate and sustainable funding for the operation of the courts; diversity and inclusion in the legal profession; and the role of civic education and engagement in maintaining public confidence in the justice system.

In a statement released today, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye said: “I have informed Governor Gavin Newsom that I will not be seeking re-election as Chief Justice of California and that I will be completing my judicial service at the end of my current term. And of course I will support the smooth transition of leadership of the judiciary. Through his efforts and those of recent governors, he will have a diverse pool of exceptionally qualified lawyers and legal professionals, and I believe that the judiciary, the courts and access to justice in California will be in good hands.

My first interaction with our justice system was when my family was kicked out of our home and my mother felt helpless. As the daughter of farm workers, I experienced in my community what it was like to stand up for your rights and demand protections. As a wife, I felt the impact of unjust Japanese internment on my in-laws. As a judge, I saw the devastating effects of domestic violence and created Sacramento’s first court dedicated solely to domestic violence issues. As Chief Justice, I continue to keep the faces behind the cases top of mind and remain focused on the goal of providing all Californians with equal, fair, and accessible justice.

A graduate of a public school, community college, and public university, I am proud to have served the people of California to the best of my ability at all levels of our state justice system.

The support and encouragement of my family, extended Filipino family, minority bar associations and many role models and mentors throughout my career in public service has allowed me to thrive and succeed even in sometimes difficult circumstances. . I am grateful to all of them.

My career as Chief Justice is limited by the Great Recession and early administrative challenges and now a historic judiciary budget and the continuing difficulties of a global pandemic. Throughout my tenure, I have had the privilege of serving in government with so many dedicated public servants and advocates: three governors; Successive Pro Tems of the Senate, Speakers of the Assembly and Legislative Members; justice partners and stakeholders involved in every part of our justice system; as well as judicial officers, court professionals, and personnel who serve on the California Judicial Council and its advisory bodies. Their collegiality and professionalism have enabled us to move mountains by making sound policy decisions statewide and implementing an array of justice programs and initiatives for the benefit of the public.

For me, collegiality with my bench colleagues was also essential to my service as an appellate court judge and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California, again with a wonderful professional staff and bright. We discussed, debated and sometimes disagreed, but we always focused on the rule of law and what was fair and just.

I have taken and administered many oaths in my career in public service, but no matter how many times I hear an oath “…that I will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic”, it still resonates. Each generation must renew and refresh our constitutional democracy. I truly appreciate the opportunities past governors, judiciary leaders, and the people of California have given me to support, defend, and strengthen the rule of law.

I have said before that I hold my position in trust until it is time for future leaders to protect and expand access to justice – that time has come.


Public service career

  • 1984 – Assistant District Attorney, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office;
  • 1988 – Senior Executive (Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs, Deputy Legislative Secretary) to Governor Deukmejian;
  • 1990 – Judge, Sacramento Municipal Court;
  • 1997 – Judge, Sacramento County Superior Court
  • 2005 – Associate Judge, Court of Appeals, Third Appellate District (Sacramento); and
  • 2011 – California Chief Justice, California Supreme Court, President, California Judicial Council