Capitol Alert

California chief justice warns that ‘the rule of law is being challenged’

Cautioning that “the rule of law is being challenged,” California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Monday urged the state to “persevere in our values in times of upheaval” to protect equality and diversity.

“We must remember our past, both good and bad, to fight the forces of fear and prejudice,” Cantil-Sakauye said during her annual State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature. She contrasted a 2013 law allowing undocumented lawyers to practice in California with the World War II internment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, including her in-laws, who were in attendance at the speech.

The pointed remarks struck an unusually political tone for Cantil-Sakauye, who has generally used the annual address to provide updates on the work of the judicial branch and ask for more funding for courts since she began the tradition in 2012. Though she did not mention President Donald Trump by name, she noted early on that the rule of law means “we as a people are governed by laws and rules and not by a monarch.”

Earlier this month, Cantil-Sakauye, an appointee of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, sent a letter to federal immigration officials asking them to stop “stalking undocumented immigrants” at California courthouses. She repeated that call Monday, expressing concern that the enforcement raids would discourage immigrants from reporting crimes, cooperating with law enforcement and showing up to court.

“I’m afraid that will be the end of justice, and communities will be less safe and victimization will continue,” she said.

Cantil-Sakauye also discussed the judiciary’s ongoing efforts to overhaul monetary bail, which she has argued discriminates against the poor. Bills to change the California bail system are also moving through the Legislature this session.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff