Few Californians can appoint members of the state Supreme Court, even though voters decide whether or not to keep those named officials on the ballot every four years.
In the November election, Californians nevertheless supported their retention by overwhelming margins.
An important name was missing from the ballot. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who has served as presiding judge since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her in 2010, has chosen to retire. She has been widely hailed in judicial circles as a moderate voice in court – and as an advocate for greater public access to the justice system. She is known for her collegiality.
The California Supreme Court has not always run smoothly. After a contentious campaign in 1986, voters rejected three petitions because of their resistance to the death penalty. As detailed by the San Francisco Chronicle, the current tribunal has “fallen under the radar”, with 85% of recent decisions being unanimous.
While we appreciate a high court that isn’t deeply immersed in hot-button issues, we’d like to see more public attention given the significance of its rulings. For example, Cantil-Sakauye wrote the opinion in one of the most disruptive cases in years, the Dynamex decision. The judges created an “ABC test” that limited freelance contracts – and led to the passage of the disastrous Assembly Bill 5.
We were also appalled by Cantil-Sakauye’s decision to tackle one of the state’s most pressing issues: pension reform. In a case that involved the California rule, which prohibits governments from cutting future pensions for government employees, she agreed to ban certain tricks that drive up pensions, but rejected efforts to reform the rule under underlying.
On the positive side, she set up a task force to reform the cash bond system, which places charges on those who don’t have the funds to buy a bond.
A unanimous court agreed that a sheriff can share information about deputies who engage in misconduct with prosecutors. We also appreciated his resistance to Donald Trump’s efforts to send immigration officers to courthouses.
We wish her the best as she heads the influential Public Policy Institute of California.
California Daily Newspapers