Capitol Alert: California chief justice warns of 'civil rights crisis'

akoseff@sacbee.comMarch 17, 2014 

RB Chief Justice

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye answers questions from The Bee's Editorial Board at the offices of The Sacramento Bee in Sacramento on Wednesday, January 22, 2014.

RANDALL BENTON — rbenton@sacbee.com

California faces a "civil rights crisis" because of years of funding reductions for the judicial branch, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Monday afternoon during her third State of the Judiciary Address.

Speaking to a joint legislative session in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol, Cantil-Sakauye asked for partnership across the government to address what has been nearly half a billion dollars in cumulative budget cuts since 2008. She said the reductions have deprived more than two million Californians of access to a local court and have had a particularly negative effect on civil cases, which cede precedence to criminal justice.

"We face astonishing and harmful delays in urgent family matters, in business contracts, wrongful termination, discrimination cases, personal injury cases across the board," she said. "We want to be a partner in fair and collaborative solutions."

Cantil-Sakauye tied her comments to the 50th anniversary of the federal Civil Rights Act. She called the landmark legislation, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, "the fair thing and the right thing to do."

"But it also took collaboration" to create and enforce, she added. "That's how an effective democracy works--all three branches in collaboration."

She pointed to recent efforts within the California judiciary, including the creation of problem-solving courts, which emphasize rehabilitative programs over punitive solutions, and a push to address disparities in the juvenile justice system, where African-American, American Indian, disabled and foster youth are over-represented.

At the top of the speech, lawmakers gave a standing ovation to Justice Joyce L. Kennard, who will retire in April after 25 years on the California Supreme Court. Honoring her rise from immigrant to judge, Cantil-Sakauye saluted Kennard's "uncommon intellect, integrity and courage."

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service