Opinion L.A.
Opinion Opinion L.A.

Tani Cantil-Sakauye

It's quite a salvo at the man who runs your state. On her first official day on the job, after Tani Cantil-Sakauye was sworn in as chief justice of the state's judiciary in San Francisco, wrote California Courts News, she told onlookers she didn't like to "oath and run" but she had to get to Sacramento to swear in Gov. Jerry Brown too. Fast forward three years, and here's what she declares about that governor's proposed funding for her beleaguered state judiciary: "We are rationing justice, and it's become more than a fiscal problem," she said during a news conference in January. "It is in my view now a civil rights problem," said Cantil-Sakauye, 54, the first Asian American and the second woman to serve as chief justice in California. "Because when you can no longer guarantee timely access to justice, and you can no longer provide litigants a courtroom in his or her community of his or her peers, then we know we are denying the protections of an American democracy." True, the system she inherited in 2011 was in "full crisis mode." Years of cutbacks have forced the closure of 51 courthouses and 205 courtrooms, according to The Times, and reduced hours at courts throughout the state. The budget has "made us do more with less," she says, and she's looked at technological solutions, including videoconferencing, to allow judges to try cases remotely. But the crisis is now. A judges' committee last year found that the cutbacks had created a five-month wait for trials on traffic matters in San Diego and a four-hour wait in lines in San Francisco to pay parking tickets, The Times reported. What next? "I don't think it's her reputation as a legal scholar that got her the appointment, but rather her experience in dealing with court administration issues on the Judicial Council and her experience in dealing with the legislature and the governor," says Santa Clara University Law professor Gerald Uelmen.Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
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