California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is delivering an aggressive message to members of the Assembly after the lower house narrowly passed a bill that would strip power from the state Judicial Council she controls.
In a 20-minute speech to the state's presiding judges in the days after the Jan. 30 vote on Assembly Bill 1208, a stern-faced Cantil-Sakauye said she was "greatly dismayed" at the "meritless, false claims" in the floor debate and the voting process in the Assembly.
Click here to download video of Cantil-Sakauye's speech. Requires a Windows Media file player.
"It's one thing to lose an argument based on merit," Cantil-Sakauye said, "it's another thing when the facts are not represented."
She said she expressed her displeasure after the vote in a phone conversation with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who supported the bill.
She also said she was surprised that, with the bill in limbo and eight votes short of passing at 33-23, Pérez apparently helped round up the deciding votes for the 41-26 outcome.
"Because of my previous conversations with the speaker I thought for the most part then it would go away, because I understood that this bill would be up to each member to vote their conscience, that it wouldn't be the subject of political maneuvering...on the Assembly floor," Cantil-Sakauye said. "And that of course disturbs me, but I know our process is very different from the legislative process."
Pérez's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Cantil-Sakauye said the process "really called into question" the meaning of separation of powers. "That line has been and very well could be blurred based on the conduct and the involvement that occurred not only leading up to the bill, but how it squeaked out...of the Assembly. I don't know that anyone can stand tall after that process or claim a mandate after that process."
AB 1208 is pushed by a group of judges called the Alliance of California Judges and is backed by Service Employees International Union, representing courthouse employees.
The bill is stalled -- for now -- in the Senate. Cantil-Sakauye said she would continue pushing to kill the measure.
"That's my hill," she told the judges. "There are few hills as a judge. As you all know, we're neutral, we're objective, we're fact-finders. We left that persona (as advocates) behind a long time ago, but it is kind of funny how it comes back to you. Pretty quickly actually, about how when you're fighting for a value, or a principle you think threatens what you stand for, what you took an oath for."
PHOTO CREDIT: California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye visits The Bee on Jan. 26, 2012. Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee