California

Calif. Supreme Court chief justice won’t run for second 12-year term

The California Supreme Court’s chief justice said Wednesday that she will not seek a second 12-year term in November and will conclude her current term of office on Jan. 1.

The announcement by Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye will give Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, his third opportunity to appoint a justice to the seven-member high court, and his first to pick a new chief justice.

Cantil-Sakauye was sworn in to office in January 2011 after she was nominated by former Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and was elected in the November 2010 general election.

She is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice. She said Newsom will be able to select from a diverse pool of qualified successors and that she believes she is leaving the courts “in a solid, sustainable place.”

Cantil-Sakauye told reporters that she is still having anxiety about her decision, but “I’ve accomplished much and started the ball rolling on many things that are of interest to us as a (judicial) branch.”

“It’s just time after 12 years as chief and 32 years total wearing a black robe,” she said.

Unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges, California judges do not hold lifetime positions. She would have had to run for retention by voters in November’s election.

Cantil-Sakauye, 62, made her announcement as the filing deadline is approaching.

She is one of five justices on the seven-member court who could stand for retention in November. At least three of the other four have said they will seek retention.

It could be the largest crowd of justices on any one ballot in more than three decades, according to David Ettinger, an appellate lawyer who writes a blog about the California Supreme Court.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.