Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Monday called for additional court funding to help the state stay on the “bolder path” Gov. Jerry Brown described as his vision for California during the Trump administration.
Addressing a joint session of the Legislature in her annual State of the Judiciary speech, Cantil-Sakauye said the state’s efforts to “ govern its own affairs is now being litigated,” a reference to California’s many legal battles with the federal government.
“On the national front we have unprecedented disruption, attacks on the free press, threats to the rule of civility and the rule of law and judicial independence,” the chief justice said. “But fortunately our founders focused much on the limits of power in the Constitution when they constructed the three branches of government—the checks and balances as well as adopting the Bill of Rights and building a federal system that’s still recognizes the rights of states to govern some of their own business.”
Cantil-Sakauye added: “Our governor said in his State of the State that for California, we persevere, and the bolder way is still our way forward. And so I ask you to help, together, to stay on the bold path and provide for a fair and accessible justice system.”
Cantil-Sakauye’s remarks about California’s fights against the Trump administration came at the end of a roughly 14-minute speech and were almost her only nod to any type of controversy. She did not talk about her efforts to dissuade federal agents from detaining undocumented immigrants in state courthouses. She did not reference an attempt to recall a Santa Clara County judge or a campaign to unseat four San Francisco judges because they were appointed by Republicans. She also did not mention that her court has gone without a seventh justice for almost seven months now.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who has yet to nominate anyone to fill the vacancy on the state Supreme Court, did not attend the chief justice’s speech.
Cantil-Sakauye focused mainly on familiar themes: her efforts to make the judicial branch run more efficiently, the closures and layoffs that marked recession-era budget cuts and the need for more funding to restore services. She praised the governor’s proposal to give the state’s 58 trial courts another $123 million.
“This will allow the trial courts the needed flexibility to restore services they regrettably reduced,” she said.
Cantil-Sakauye also reiterated her support for making the state’s money bail system fairer to people of all income levels.
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, said that support is “significant” for reform efforts pending in the Legislature. Stone noted the chief justice did not repeat her call for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stay out of state courts.
“She seems to have backed off on that a little bit,” he said. “That’s an important thing right now for California to show some leadership on how we’re trying to protect access to justice by making sure people are not afraid to come into court.”
Stone also predicted the Legislature will approve the extra spending Brown has proposed for courts.
“The governor’s been stingy with the courts [in the past] because of concerns about a lack of efficiencies,” Stone said. “The fact that the governor put it in, I don’t see us taking it away.”