Two prominent women lawyers' groups are the latest to lambaste Assemblyman Charles Calderon for what they said were inappropriate comments about California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye at a committee hearing on Tuesday.
The Whittier Democrat, at the Assembly Judiciary Committee to push his controversial bill to decentralize control of California courts, said the issue wasn't about Cantil-Sakauye.
But he also said: "It isn't 'Is she nice?' 'Cause she is. 'Is she smart?' 'Cause she is. 'Is she attractive?' 'Cause she is. It isn't about that."
Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, was the first to call him out, penning a letter that demanded an apology, noting that Cantil-Sakauye "should be taken seriously and not spoken about in such a dismissive and frivolous manner."
Then the Washington-based National Association of Women Judges and Sacramento-based California Women Lawyers piled on. Calderon's comments, the groups' presidents wrote in a joint letter, "were not only inappropriate, but degrading to all women."
The two groups also took offense with Calderon's explanation to the Los Angeles Times, in which he said he meant no disrespect and would apologize "if anybody misunderstood it."
"That accepts no responsibility for your remarks and strains credibility," the groups' letter to Calderon continued. "It is hard to believe that there is any way to 'misunderstand' what you said."
California Women Lawyers president Patricia Sturdevant said Friday that the group had gotten no response from Calderon. She said plenty of lawyers at a charity event Thursday attended by Cantil-Sakauye expressed anger about the incident. "If Calderon would own his speech and say he was sorry people wouldn't be so upset," Sturdevant said.
Cantil-Sakauye, who has not commented on the incident, "did not say a word" about Calderon's comments, Sturdevant said. "She's too classy," she said.
It's not the first time Cantil-Sakauye has been publicly praised for more than her judicial acumen. According to a Sacramento Lawyer magazine account of Cantil-Sakauye's February investiture celebration, former Third Appellate District Justice Arthur Scotland said Cantil-Sakauye was "a lot smarter" and "a lot better looking" than California's first chief justice.
Calderon could not be reached for comment Friday.
PHOTO CREDITS: Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, Aug. 31, 2010. Randy Pench/The Sacramento Bee. File photo of Tani Cantil-Sakauye.