2019 Fellows Honoree

Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye was honored by the ABA Young Lawyers Division Fellows at the annual meeting in San Francisco in 2018.

Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye was honored by the ABA Young Lawyers Division Fellows at the annual meeting in San Francisco in 2018.

During her eight years in office, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has emerged as one of the country’s leading advocates for equal access to justice, transparency, and reform of state court funding models that unfairly impact the poor.

When Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye was sworn into office in January 2011 as the 28th Chief Justice of California, she was the first Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s Chief Justice. 

In recent years, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has raised awareness of the unfair financial impact of fines, fees, and the bail system on the poor. She is a leading national advocate calling for bail system reform by addressing concerns about fairness and public safety. In California, her Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup provided recommendations that informed work between the judicial branch, the Governor and the Legislature on a bill to eliminate money bail and replace it with a system that values public safety while ensuring defendants are treated fairly no matter their wealth. In addition, she has asked federal authorities to protect the integrity of the state court system by not arresting undocumented residents at courthouses.

As leader of California’s judicial branch and chair of the Judicial Council, Chief Justice Cantil- Sakauye has helped lead the judicial branch out of the state’s worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. She has improved the branch’s efficiency, accountability, and transparency in how it conducts business and discloses information. When she became Chief Justice, she opened meetings of the Judicial Council and its advisory bodies that were once closed to the public and has made public comment more accessible.

Judicial Council meetings are now webcast, as are state Supreme Court oral arguments. Most recently, she has appointed a group of judicial officers, court executive officers and lawyers to address how the judicial branch can prevent harassment, discrimination, or inappropriate workplace conduct.

The Chief Justice is a leader in revitalizing civic learning through her Power of Democracy initiative. She, along with other state leaders, fulfilled one of the initiative’s goals in July 2016 when the state Board of Education unanimously approved an instructional framework that encourages civic learning. And she continues these efforts to inform the public about how the courts, both federal and state, play a key role in the state government. 

The Chief Justice has also convened leaders to address issues of implicit bias, human trafficking, and truancy—which is part of a national movement to keep kids in school and out of the criminal justice system. All the Chief Justice’s initiatives support her vision for a judicial branch that provides physical access through safe and secure courthouses, remote access through technology initiatives, and equal access to all Californians.