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Schwarzenegger praises his choice for chief justice

Governor calls Tani Cantil-Sakauye a 'living, breathing example of the American dream.' She says that 'what justice means to the public is that courts right the wrongs.'

July 23, 2010|By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento — Walking side by side down a flag-lined hall to the soaring Capitol rotunda, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tani Cantil-Sakauye made their inaugural public appearance together Thursday, as she said she was "deeply honored" to be his choice as California's next chief justice.

"I am humbled by the experience, I am grateful for the opportunity and I am mindful of the public trust," Cantil-Sakauye said.

If approved by a confirmation panel and in November by voters, Cantil-Sakauye, 50, would be California's first Asian American chief justice and would give women a majority on the state's high court for the first time.

Cantil-Sakauye, a Republican, began by talking about history from the vantage point of her two children.

"They have a set of grandparents who worked in the fields. They have a set of grandparents who were interned for four years," she said, referring to the experience of her husband's parents during World War II.

"And their mother?" she added. "… Is history remarkable or what?"

Schwarzenegger, who announced her nomination Wednesday, hailed her as a "living, breathing example of the American dream."

Cantil-Sakauye's first appearance since her nomination also provided hints of her judicial approach. She told the sometimes raucous crowd that she keeps a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess who represents law and justice, on her desk.

"I am reminded that what justice means to the public is that courts right the wrongs," Cantil-Sakauye said. "It vanquishes the indignities and provides a forum for everyone to be heard."

Schwarzenegger extolled her intellect, judicial philosophy and ascent from "humble beginnings."

The governor, who emigrated from Austria and rose to prime positions in the bodybuilding, Hollywood and political worlds, has long been fond of up-from-the-bootstraps personal histories. He said Cantil-Sakauye would bring a "rich diversity" to the court.

"She even waited on tables to help put herself through college and later on through law school," said the governor, flanked by Cantil-Sakauye and Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who is retiring. "What an inspiring example to all the young people in America, especially the young Filipino boys and girls."

Schwarzenegger appointed Cantil-Sakauye to a state appeals court in 2005. She has been a judge since 1990, and before that was a prosecutor and an aide to former Gov. George Deukmejian.

Before taking the bench in January, she faces a confirmation hearing by a three-member bar panel, headed by George, and then a November retention vote. She would replace George, who has often been the swing vote on the high court.

Her closeness to the retiring chief justice was apparent Thursday. He praised her as "exceptionally wise" and the "ideal person" to lead the judiciary. And, at the close of the ceremony, they shared a warm embrace.

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