News Release

California Chief Justice Delivers 2019 State of the Judiciary Address

Chief Justice says civil rights work remains unfinished; current challenges of income inequality, pretrial reform, and equal access require innovation and a human touch from a more representative judiciary.
Mar 19, 2019

On March 19, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye delivered her annual State of the Judiciary address to the California Legislature.

March 19, 2019, 11 a.m.



Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis, President Pro Tem Atkins, and Speaker Rendon for those introductions. And thank you Governor for being here. You honor us with your presence.

I am thankful to be here with my colleagues from the Supreme Court and also members of the judiciary, including the Judicial Council, Bench Bar Coalition, and Open Courts Coalition. I am grateful that some of my beloved family members are here—my husband, Mark, my in-laws Jiro and Dorothy, and my-sister-in-law, Vickie, and friends.

The motto of the Senate is to “guard the liberty” of the people.

This motto is in accord with the constitutional democracy that Lincoln envisioned with the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

California’s three branches of government strive to put the people’s rights, protections, and freedoms first.

Even with our distinct roles, and different powers, and the necessary checks and balances of good government—we all are guardians of the people’s liberty.


Each generation endeavors to change the present for the future.

Case in point: we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Past generations fought for this right and its import cannot be overstated. Because the right to vote is the right to choose, it’s the right to participate, and it’s the right to be heard. All are necessary elements if we are to exercise our birthright to justice.

Many of us are here today because of the sacrifice and determination of those past generations.

So today, in speaking to you about the state of the judiciary, I start with the fact that about one-third of our justices and judges are relatively new to their positions.

Thanks to Governor Brown, who breathed new life into the judiciary with 600 plus judicial appointments, 200 of those in his final year.

In the last year, these new appointees self-report that 41 percent are non-white and over half of these appointments are female.

This is to let you know that the judiciary now is more representative of the communities we serve in every way.

We’ve also made progress, with your help, because we are more focused on our goals and plan and we have what we call access 3D, a vision for access to justice—that access to justice be three-dimensional.

One of course that it be physical for your day in court; two to be remote or online so you can access information and tools, and knowledge; and three that it be equal access.

So physical access is of course courtrooms and courthouses. With your help, we maintain over 500 courthouses [facilities] in California and we are constructing 10 new safe and secure courthouses in the local communities we serve.

Remote access means online access. It means you may conduct your legal business via an app or a video for those who choose to do so.

Thanks to your funding of our innovative grants program, local courts serve as incubators for over 50 new projects that include new technology so that we may, eventually, test this new technology and use it statewide. This new technology includes things like a mobile app, a multilingual self-help website, avatar guides, video hearings, and video remote interpreters.

These grants allow the judiciary to prototype and beta test these new programs, policies, and projects so we can replicate them statewide for other courts. Because improving online access to justice makes sense in California. Many Californians expect this kind of service from their courts.

Yet we must always remember and understand that technology can only take us so far. Justice will always require a human touch. We will always need judges and court staff to listen to people in crisis, to guide them, and to help them resolve their disputes.

An estimated 4.5 million self-represented litigants come to court seeking justice each year. These folks need help to access and to understand our court system. That’s why I’ve advocated for wayfinders, or what we call court navigators,

This is equal access, the third component of access 3D. In a state as diverse and inclusive as California, we are always working on access to justice.

For example, a few years ago we studied the need for language access in the courts. We issued a report; we made recommendations. Those recommendations were implemented recently thanks to the exceptional leadership of Supreme Court Justice Tino Cuéllar. Now, Tino will tell you about his outstanding task force.

Thanks to their efforts and your funding, we now provide interpreters in critical civil cases like domestic violence, child custody, elder abuse, and evictions. We have increased multilingual signage in the courts and use interpreters at service desks.

But as Justice Cuéllar told us at the Judicial Council last week, we have much more work to do. And we are committed to that work.

Every generation is responsible for creating democracy anew, a democracy that is relevant and responsive to the needs of that generation. One that expands upon and completes the previous work of the prior generation.

In my view, the civil rights movement that began in the ’50s remains unfinished. Daily we hear in the news about actions like #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, and #timesup—just to name a few.

Frederick Douglass said “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, or degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”

We in the judiciary recognize this, and we need to work on our own challenges:

1. We must ensure that income inequality doesn’t translate into a two-tiered justice system;

2. We must ensure that fines and fees no longer fall on those least able to afford them;

3. We must ensure that minor traffic offenses don’t turn poor drivers into poor criminals; and

4. We must ensure that we keep our workplaces safe and free from discrimination and harassment and that we treat each other and the public we serve with respect.

We meet our challenges in the judiciary by convening the most knowledgeable, deliberating the facts and the law, and then pursuing recommendations through all three branches of government. Because we have learned, as Governor Newsom said in his State of the State, we go far, when we go together.

An example of this convening is a workgroup to study the practices and reform of existing pretrial detention. We asked this task force to come back with next steps to make this process fairer and safer.

We thank Governor Newsom for his vision and resolve and his commitment to fairness and safety with his proposal of $75 million to the courts to develop, implement, and evaluate pretrial detention decision-making pilots in 8 to 10 courts.

We are grateful, and I am thankful that I see one of our partners in this effort here today, the President of the Chief Probation Officers of California, Chief Stephanie James, the leader per county in pretrial detention reform.

We thank probation for their partnership and for helping us lead the way. We thank Chief James and San Joaquin County for their leadership efforts and for generously sharing their time and their knowledge with those who are willing and open to changing their practices.

Another method of showing our way of convening is our workgroup on the prevention of discrimination and harassment and abuse. We have a workgroup that will come back to us in the summer with recommendations, we hope, Justice Hill and Judge Boulware Eurie, to make our workplace safer, respectful, and better for all.

Our Administrative Director Martin Hoshino has already acted in this regard. He has made unconscious bias training mandatory for all judicial council employees.

He recognizes the science, as do I, that the formation of unconscious stereotypes can affect attitudes, actions, and beliefs in all encounters where we meet someone different from ourselves.

I’ve asked Martin to review our statewide judicial educational curriculum to ensure that this kind of training is available for jurists. I plan on taking the first class.

In closing, I want to pay tribute to Women’s History Month by noting that 100 years after giving us the right to vote—women in California have truly made their mark.

Currently, our President Pro Tem is the first female to lead this august body. We have 36 female legislators, down from our majority. But we still have three current female Supreme Court justices. Our Lieutenant Governor, our Controller, and our Treasurer are all female. The last three Chiefs of Staff to the Governor were female. The current Chief of Staff to the Governor is female. And our First Partner is a filmmaker, writer, producer, director…and working mom.

I often mention that Hamilton quote—that “laws are a dead letter” without the courts. But this time I’m going to end with Hamilton—An American Musical—no singing.

Hamilton’s sister in law, Angelica Schuyler, says that she appreciates that the Declaration of Independence “holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But when she meets Thomas Jefferson she’s going to “compel him to put women in the sequel.”

I submit to you that the 19th Amendment put us in the sequel.

And now we’re ready for the 3rd installment.

Thank you for listening.