Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California. Courtesy picture.

SAN FRANCISCO — Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye announced Wednesday that she will not run for California’s chief justice in the November 2022 general election.

She will complete her current term on January 1, 2023, after 32 years of service at all levels of state courts.

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.

Cantil-Sakauye’s career included working as an assistant district attorney in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office; Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs and Assistant Legislative Secretary to Governor George Deukmejian; judge of the Sacramento Municipal Court and later of the Sacramento County Superior Court; associate judge of the Court of Appeals for the Third Appellate District (Sacramento).

In 2011, she was appointed Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and President of the California Judicial Council.

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 Wednesday, 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 will be completing my judicial service at the end of of my current term. And of course, I will support the smooth transition of the leadership of the judiciary. Through his efforts and those of recent governors, he will have a diverse pool of exceptionally qualified jurists and legal professionals, and I believe 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 every level of our state justice system.

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

“My career as Chief Justice is marked by the Great Recession and early administrative challenges and now a historic Judiciary Branch budget and the continuing hardships of a global pandemic. Throughout my tenure, I have had the privilege to serve in government with so many dedicated officials and advocates: three Governors; successive Senate Pro Tems, Speakers of the Assembly and Legislative Members; justice partners and stakeholders involved in every part of our justice system as well as the judicial officers, court professionals, and staff 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 across the of the state and implementing a range 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 We discussed, debated and sometimes disagreed, but we always focused on the rule of law and what was right 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.

In response to Cantil-Sakauye’s announcement, Governor Gavin Newsom praised his service.

“During her more than decade-long tenure as head of California’s judicial branch, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye led our state’s courts through times of great challenge and opportunity, defending major reforms to make our justice system fairer and more transparent, and to expand equal access. to justice for all Californians,” Newsom said.

Newsom said she served with distinction at all levels of state court before breaking barriers as the first person of color and second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice.

“A strong advocate for access to courts, she fought against immigrant law enforcement raids on courthouses targeting vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime. During the pandemic, his tireless efforts have modernized operations and expanded access to California court services, while maintaining jobs and safe in-person access for those in need. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has been a leading spokesperson for bail reform, decrying its disproportionate effects on low-income people, and raising awareness of the unfair financial hardship caused by fines and fees for those who cannot afford them,” he said.

Newsom added, “From the aftermath of the Great Recession to a global pandemic, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has led with a deep dedication to the rule of law, California values, and the highest ideals of public service. On behalf of a grateful state, I thank Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye for her nearly four decades of service to the people of California and wish her well in her next chapter.

Cathal Conneely writes for the California Judicial Council.