Capitol Alert

Chief justice expects chattier California Supreme Court

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye vists with The Bee's Editorial Board on January 22, 2014.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye vists with The Bee's Editorial Board on January 22, 2014. RBenton@sacbee.com

Should Leondra Kruger, Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest nominee to the California Supreme Court, be confirmed this month, she will be the fourth new justice on the seven-member bench in four years.

The turnover is propelling a change in culture on the court, according to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye – especially as Brown has appointed three members in a row who have no previous judicial experience.

“We are a mix of boots-on-the-ground folks and people who have worked with the theories of the laws and the rule of law academically,” Cantil-Sakauye, who joined the court in 2011, said during a press gathering at her San Francisco office on Tuesday. “We will have a very healthy debate. We will instruct and bring each other along.”

Brown’s previous nominees, Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, were both professors, while Kruger is a lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice. Cantil-Sakauye said it’s a different approach that will likely result in “more active and longer conferences.”

“I expect that this new blood will have more discussions, but I think that’s healthy for us,” she said.

Though she had not heard of Kruger before the nomination, Cantil-Sakauye added, “All experience is welcome on the Supreme Court.”

In August, Cantil-Sakauye raised eyebrows when she was the lone vote against removing an advisory ballot measure about campaign finance law from last month’s ballot.

While her colleagues supporting kicking then-Proposition 49 off the ballot because of its non-binding nature, Cantil-Sakauye argued that its legality should be decided after voters had a chance to weigh in on it.

It turns out the precedent she cited, a 2005 case in which the Supreme Court allowed a challenged initiative to continue forward with a vote, has a personal connection: “It was me who was reversed by this court when I took something off the ballot,” she said. “This is rule of law to me.”

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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