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California Today: California Today: Talking to California’s Top Judge

Mike McPhate

Mike McPhate

CALIFORNIA TODAY

Good morning.

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Today’s introduction is by Jennifer Medina, a national correspondent based in Los Angeles.

Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of California, made headlines this year after she criticized immigration agents for “stalking” courthouses and using them as “bait” to catch unauthorized immigrants. The Department of Justice responded with a harshly worded letter, telling her that agents come to the courts in large part because of state policies that protect such immigrants.

A lifelong Republican, Justice Cantil-Sakauye worked for several years for the Republican governor George Deukmejian. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her chief justice in 2010. While Ms. Cantil-Sakauye says she does not think of herself as political, she has not shown any signs of backing off from her criticisms of President Trump, calling his comments about the judiciary damaging.

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We spoke to Ms. Cantil-Sakauye by phone to discuss the challenges facing the state’s court system. Here are some excerpts:

Q. Tell us about your family’s history. Your husband’s parents were in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Do you talk with them about that?

A. My grandmother migrated from the Philippines to Hawaii in the 1920s. In those days they were basically required to work the sugar cane fields there before they came to California. My mother grew up as the children of transient framers who moved from crop to crop. My father’s family were also farmworkers who became farmers and then pursuant to Executive Order 9066, they were all interned.

One aunt contracted breast cancer in Tuolumne and a Japanese doctor performed a double mastectomy. Because there was basically no treatment she died shortly thereafter. His parents have spoken about it more and more as they have gotten older but none of them have any interest in going there and doing a tour. They honor it but they don’t want to revisit it.

How has the Trump administration affected the court system?

It doesn’t help when there is a narrative about judges being political or that decisions are made on alleged personal biases. It undermines the branch. We follow the rule of law and write out our logic to explain how we got there. To call it personal, biased or results oriented is really not to understand what the judiciary is. To insinuate or directly say that we rule from our personal feelings is really wrong and damaging.

What are the biggest challenges facing the state courts now?

We are chronically underfunded. During the Great Recession we lost at least 40 percent of our budget that we’ve never recovered. At the same time 6,000 new laws have been passed. We’re getting less money, while our trial courts have been more burdened than they ever have before.

Interactive Feature | Local Weather Today’s Weather

California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

• Two San Diego sailors were among seven killed in a ship collision. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

• A heat wave broke records over the weekend. The worst is yet to come. [Los Angeles Times]

• The Salton Sea is becoming a toxic dust bowl — nearly 15 years after lawmakers promised to fix it. [The Desert Sun]

• Despite promises made after the Ghost Ship disaster, residents are getting booted from unpermitted spaces. [The Mercury News]

• The case of Kevin Cooper, a California death row inmate, is a national embarrassment. [Opinion | The New York Times]

• If Colin Kaepernick were in the N.B.A., his social activism wouldn’t be a problem. But he’s in the N.F.L., where it is. [The New York Times]

• Some Uber executives are wary of Arianna Huffington’s close ties with Travis Kalanick, the chief executive. [The New York Times]

Silicon Valley has autonomy. The Central Valley city of Huron, population 7,000, has community. [Opinion | The New York Times]

Bald eagle numbers are now fully restored in central California. [The Mercury News]

• A satellite image showed unusually thick snowpack still atop the Sierra Nevada. [Climate Central]

• This episode of “I Love Dick” may be the best 20 minutes of television in years, our critic writes. [The New York Times]

Coming Up This Week

• Representative Tom McClintock will hold a town hall Monday in Jackson, Amador County.

• The summer solstice is Tuesday. Santa Barbara will kick off a celebration a few days later.

• The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest happens Friday at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma.

• The BET Awards ceremony will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, with Leslie Jones as host.

And Finally …

Also coming up this week is San Francisco Pride.

You could be reminded by looking at City Hall, which was to be lit up in rainbow colors.

Willie Brown, the former mayor, once called the lighting of city hall for civic occasions “one of San Francisco’s most wonderful traditions.”

It’s become more frequent lately since a new LED light system replaced the building’s old incandescent bulbs. Colors are now manipulated by computer.

City Hall was bathed in purple after Prince died, green after President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord, and blue and gold for the playoff-dominating Warriors.

Ten or so displays a month are set by a team of three city officials: Naomi Kelly, the city administrator; Martha Cohen, the mayor’s director of special events; and Charlotte Shultz, the city’s chief of protocol.

Many ideas arise internally. Others are requested by outside groups that hope to highlight causes, including the many “awareness” days out there.

They can’t all be accommodated, said Ms. Kelly.

“Some days we’d like to leave the building white just so that we can appreciate the nature of the building,” she said. “There are so many requests. You could have the building lit up every day in a different color.”

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected].

The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Los Osos.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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