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New chief justice nominee confirmed

Cantil-Sakauye's name now goes on Nov. 2 state ballot for voter approval

A state commission in San Francisco Wednesday unanimously confirmed Sacramento appeals court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to be California's next chief justice.

Cantil-Sakauye, 50, was nominated last month by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to succeed California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, who will retire on Jan. 2.

She was confirmed to the post by the three-member Commission on Judicial Appointments after a two-hour hearing in the Supreme Court courtroom at the State Building.

Cantil-Sakauye's name will now go on the Nov. 2 state ballot for voter approval for a 12-year term as chief justice that would begin Jan. 3.

The daughter of two farm workers, she would be the state high court's first Filipino-American justice and its second female chief justice. Cantil-Sakauye has served on the Court of Appeal in Sacramento since 2005 and before that was a trial judge for 14 years.

She told the commission she would bring to the job "the promise to listen closely and analyze carefully, and to arrive in a collaborative fashion at a resolution."

"I do not underestimate the magnitude of the role of the chief justice," she said, which includes not only being a judge but also chairing the Judicial Council, the governing body of the state court system.

The court system is one of the world's largest with 1,700 judges and a $4 billion annual budget.

"There have been many descriptions of this job and I read them all, and none of them said 'easy,'" she said.

The panel was made up of George, Attorney General Jerry Brown and Joan Dempsey Klein, the state's senior presiding justice of the Court of Appeal.

George said he viewed Cantil-Sakauye's legal experience as "a rather unique blend of the qualities needed to be chief justice."

Cantil-Sakauye is a member of the Judicial Council and served on several council task forces and committees.

After receiving her law degree from the University of California, Davis in 1984, she worked as a deputy district attorney in Sacramento County for four years and then as a deputy legal affairs secretary and deputy legislative secretary to Gov. George Deukmejian.

Fourteen witnesses spoke at today's hearing, including 11 who favored confirmation, two who opposed it, and a State Bar representative who said a bar panel rated Cantil-Sakauye as "exceptionally well qualified" for the post.

Arthur Scotland, the administrative presiding justice of the Court of Appeal in Sacramento, called her "an extremely smart and independent thinker" and said she is "always respectful, always reasonable."

Filipino American Service Group representative Eduardo Angeles of Los Angeles said, "The nomination is a reaffirmation all things being possible in our society as a result of hard work and commitment."

One of the opponents, Deputy California Attorney General Geoffrey Graybill of Sacramento, who was speaking as a private citizen, alleged that Cantil-Sakauye was biased in favor of women in domestic violence and child custody cases.

George asked State Bar representative Alice Salvo whether the bar panel had found any evidence of bias, and she said they had found "no indication" of it.

If approved by the voters, Cantil-Sakauye would give the seven-justice state high court a majority of four women members. Both the court and the Judicial Council are headquartered in San Francisco.

Cantil-Sakauye is married to a Sacramento police lieutenant and has two daughters.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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