By Avery Bissett.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, in her annual State of the Judiciary address on March 19, renewed calls for bail reform and making the legal system more attuned to the needs of Californians. She also doubled down on oblique criticisms of the White House.
The chief justice called then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s assertion in 1964 that the bail system is “a vehicle for systemic injustice” a “clarion for justice” in 2018.
Despite efforts in recent years to end the money bail system, they have hit roadblocks. Legislation to revamp bail was defeated last year after vigorous opposition from industry lobbyists and counties concerned with the implementation costs of the reforms.
While Cantil-Sakauye cited progress in criminal reforms over the last several years, she also spoke of a need to expand these efforts to civil cases. She called for the state to offer better self-help services to citizens who appear in court without attorneys. The problem is particularly acute in civil cases, where she cited a statistic of at least one side not having a lawyer in three-quarters of cases.
The address also contained clear references to President Donald Trump, even if he was never explicitly named.
“On the national front, we have unprecedented disruption, attacks on the free press, threats to the rule of civility, the Rule of Law, and judicial independence,” she told the joint session of the state Legislature.
The chief justice also addressed the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ controversial announcement that the Justice Department would take the Golden State to court over its sanctuary city policies.
“We know that in California, California’s right to govern its own affairs is now being litigated in federal court. So it’s only natural that, nationally, the Law Day theme this year is ‘Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom,’” said Cantil-Sakauye.
Cantil-Sakauye was appointed chief justice in 2011 by outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her 12-year term is set to expire Jan. 1, 2023.