California’s outgoing chief justice is named new CEO of public policy think tank

A woman gestures while speaking into a microphone
California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye delivers the 2015 State of the Judiciary address at the Capitol in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

When California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced this summer that she would not be seeking another term on the bench, she said she didn’t plan on retiring completely.

“My husband said, ‘You’ve got to do something,’” she said with a smile.

Turns out, she won’t be taking a break at all. Cantil-Sakauye starts as president and chief executive of the Public Policy Institute of California on Jan. 1, the day her term as chief justice ends. She will be 63.

“I am both humbled and honored to have another opportunity to serve,” Cantil-Sakauye said in an announcement of her new post Wednesday. “I understand this role will be different from my current one and yet I believe my skill set and experience have prepared me well for this task.”

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The PPIC is a nonprofit think tank with a state mission to “inform and improve public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research.”

Cantil-Sakauye said she was “fully committed to PPIC’s nonpartisan mission and efforts to improve public policy in California through independent research — without a thumb on the scale.”

“After all, who can say ‘no’ to facts?” she said.

Cantil-Sakauye will replace PPIC’s current president and CEO, Mark Baldassare, who announced his retirement in March.

PPIC’s new board chair, Chet Hewitt, said he “couldn’t be more pleased” to welcome Cantil-Sakauye into her new role, which he said the board unanimously approved after “a rigorous search process.”

“In the end, we’ve selected a CEO who has managed large organizations and budgets and a highly regarded leader who brings a track record of impartiality and a strong commitment to nonpartisan research and analysis,” he said.

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California Supreme Court Justice Patricia Guerrero has been confirmed to replace Cantil-Sakauye as chief justice in January, if approved by voters in November.

Cantil-Sakauye, who was born in Sacramento, was the first person of color and the second woman to serve as chief justice. She was sworn in as the state’s 28th chief justice in January 2011 for a 12-year term after being selected by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

During her tenure as chief, the seven justices of the California Supreme Court routinely were in agreement in decisions reflecting the court’s general left-of-center orientation.