Leading California Courts into the 21st Century

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An Interview with California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

By Erik M. Silber

image of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

On February 20, 2020, CLR Co-Editor in Chief Erik Silber interviewed the Chief Justice in her chambers in San Francisco (and that interview was supple- mented in April with COVID- 19 questions):

CLR: As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up? Who were your role models?

Chief Justice: I wanted to be a teacher and to be of some service to the public. I went to a Catholic school, so all the teachers were nuns and my family was very close to them. My mom was a role model because of her work ethic, her enthusiasm, and her positivity. But I also had role models in the community. I had a number of Filipina non-relative “aun- ties” who organized events for us Filipino children. I greatly admired their leadership and ability to get things done.

CLR: United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and you all attended McClatchy High School in Sacramento. What about that school or your community caused you to all have such success in the law?

Chief Justice: I wonder about that myself sometimes because it is a pleasant surprise  to  think  about  that.  I also know of some other Sacramento justices and judges who went to McClatchy. I know at least from my experi- ence – and I attended at the same time as Xavier Becerra  in the 1970s — that we were a school that was the picture  of diversity before that was even a word that anyone used. The students represented a collection of neighborhoods and economic conditions, and the school celebrated it. The school had a Black History month, an Asian American his- tory month, a Mexican American history month, and we all attended and volunteered for each other’s events. We also had a strong student government. I was in student govern- ment, as was Xavier Becerra, and I think there was a lot of self-actualization going on at the school.

CLR: You got both your undergraduate and your law degrees from UC Davis. What about Davis did you particularly like?

Chief Justice: Davis in the late 1970s and 1980s was a beautiful, warm, sleepy town of bicycle riders. There was little retail, so you really made your own enjoyment. There were warm friendships and lots of gatherings in homes because there was nowhere else to go. I really loved that about Davis, and that prompted me to stay and go to law school there. If you look at Davis today, it’s vastly differ- ent, although it’s still retains its small-town charm and its neighborliness. But I really enjoyed it. I rode my bicycle everywhere.

CLR: Why did you decide to go to law school? Was there a particular moment or spark that led to your interest in law?

Chief Justice: There were definitely moments, and then the spark came. The moments included growing up in a Filipino community of farm workers. I experienced the government taking over our family home, calling our home “blighted” and moving us; my mom going to court pro se to fight that move, and having lost, coming back feeling humiliated. The losing part  was  not  what  bothered  her; it was how small she felt in front of the judge and how he made her feel. I was eight or nine when she fought that case and I was nine when we were ordered out of our home. It was a family home. My grandmother lived on this family compound that my father had bought and built. We were being evicted so condominiums could be built. Thus, at an early age, I began to question government and its actions.  It also came to light that one of my uncles had to go out of state to marry his Caucasian wife. So, as a child, I recognized these things. Then one day my mother took me to go see the first ever Filipino lawyer in the community that anyone had ever heard of. My mother had little education. She was an itinerant farm worker and she was so filled with respect for this stranger who was a lawyer. That’s when she elbowed me and said, “you could do that.” I didn’t exactly know what “it” was, but my mother was not a woman who was easily impressed, and so that planted the idea in my head.

CLR: Your first job practicing law was as a prosecutor. How did that shape your career as an attorney, a judge, and a justice?

Chief Justice: I did not intend to be a prosecutor. It was the 1980s, and getting a law job was hard. I took the first available position offered, which was a probationary position for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. I had also applied to be a public defender, but was not offered the job. I had not studied criminal law, but I needed a job. My first day at the District Attorney’s Office, they gave me a case to try and I said, “well, where’s the courthouse?” I had a file for a DUI, and I went and tried it. I ended up enjoying the order of law, and the order of preparation of evidence, and the burdens of proof, and the fair presentation of evidence. So I became a career prosecutor — or so I thought. But Sacramento is a capital town. And again, just serendipitously, Governor George Deukmejian was hiring in his legal office, and word on the street was that he was looking for a prosecutor. Little did I know when I applied that hundreds of other people had also applied. But for me it was a natural segue. I was thinking that it would be two years at most in the Governor’s Office, and then a return to being a prosecutor, having had some executive branch experience. But I learned that the Governor appointed judges. From there, I was appointed to the municipal court and was elevated thereafter by three Governors. So it was by chance and timing that I became a prosecutor and learned to love trials. I learned to love the courtroom and that experience affected my career in the sense that I continue to enjoy and respect the orderly presentation of fair evidence. I have to say it significantly informed my career arc.

CLR: You worked for Governor Deukmejian as deputy legal affairs secretary and deputy legislative secretary. What do you look back on most fondly from those positions?

Chief Justice: George Deukmejian’s staff, at least in the late eighties, was very small compared to the kinds of staffs governors have now. For example, I was deputy legal affairs secretary, but there were only two or three of us in charge of the Governor’s legal affairs. Now it is a much larger group. The same is true of being a deputy legislative secretary. There were only four of us and we divided up the legislation. Now there are so many more. But the experience of being on a gubernatorial staff, especially a small intimate staff, was great. I was able to attend meetings and listen to leaders in action. Every morning there was a policy meeting and the Governor’s closest advisers would gather around a big oblong table, and I would sit against the wall, and they would discuss the issues of the day. I learned all about the different points of view, leadership, and integrity. I look back on the Deukmejian years as a time of such a rich growth experience because I was exposed to so many people who were all about good government. Most of them were former Deputy Attorneys General. They were all lawyers doing policy work. I feel grateful to George Deukmejian for providing me the opportunity to get a window into his leadership with the people he chose.

CLR: How do you think serving in the executive branch helped you ultimately as a judge and justice?

Chief Justice: For me, it made all the difference in the world about how I look at decision making, and inclusion, and how I think about diversity. George Deukmejian had an incredibly diverse staff, without that even being a particular focus in the late eighties. As a result, there were rich ideas. What I also liked about the Deukmejian administration is he did not surround himself with “yes” people. So I learned a great deal about conflict, conflict resolution, and coming to negotiated agreements.

CLR: You were on the Municipal Court, Superior Court, Court of Appeal, and now the Supreme Court. Is there a favorite position that you had during that lengthy judicial career?

Chief Justice: I’ve enjoyed all of my positions and I’ve also enjoyed them in such a way that I never thought I would leave them. But I continued to be asked to apply to higher positions. I have to say, looking back, some of the most enjoyable time that I recall was as a trial judge sitting in a law and motion calendar doing plea negotiations. Because those days for me involved maybe 25 attorneys all crammed in, hanging from the ceiling rafters, with their cases to talk about pleas and to hear a thumbnail sketch of both the prosecution side and the defense side in each of those cases, because they were looking for a judicial plea bargain. What I learned about the attorneys and about how they thought and did their jobs, and how they viewed legal issues, was an invaluable experience. I’m still good friends with many of the attorneys who appeared before me in those days.

CLR: How do you think your trial experience and intermediate appellate court experience has helped you as a Supreme Court Justice?

Chief Justice: I would be lost without having had true trial court experience. Not only trying cases, as I did, but also presiding over cases as a trial judge and also being an appellate justice — because an appellate court is error correction— was invaluable. Appellate justices are very busy because they are required to answer all issues of error. They are looking over the trial court judge’s shoulder, and trial court judges, frankly in my view, are trying to get to the best decision as fast as they can and they can revisit some of those, but they must move on and there will be error. There is no question there will be error. The issue is whether the error is harmless or not. So for me, learning what I learned at the trial court — and I was there for 14 years– and the Court of Appeal for six years, helped me because, when I came to the Supreme Court, I could really understand and respect the process. I had an appreciation that judgments are presumed valid unless error is shown. The Supreme Court intervenes only when there is great conflict to settle an area of law or to take on an important issue of statewide significance. But, at the same time, I think I’ve learned and evolved that, at the Supreme Court, we should take time in order that we develop the law. I think it should develop slowly because practitioners are required to follow it, and deep sea changes make for difficulty in advising clients and stability in the law is necessary for trial courts to be able to rule effectively and for Courts of Appeal to resolve cases.

CLR: You have been the Chief Justice for about a decade. What changes have you seen over that period of time?

Chief Justice: I came in at a time when the judiciary was awakening to technology, and some judges were savvier than others. Very little was being accomplished electronically and we are a paper-reliant industry. We had to change out of our comfort zone and put our trust and faith in electronics. That change has, in my view, happened well, practically, and positively. But it took years to accomplish, primarily because we’re always behind the curve financially and because we can’t afford the best technology. Also, it’s not easy changing the largest judiciary system in the world. Our judiciary grew up using paper, primarily. But we’ve now entered the 21st century, and we’re continuing to create efficiencies with technology. Of course, the judiciary and law is always about people, so we must also keep a firm foot in the land of human touch. In that regard, we do continue to use paper. We continue to have hearings face to face, because we will always need that. I think that’s a huge accomplishment, but I also want to say that, during the 10 years of my administration, we really focused on those who are overlooked and those who are impoverished. We’ve sought to change and fix the inequities of the past, of cumulative fines and fees, money bail, language access, and a number of issues that have gone for many years unaddressed in the judiciary. This includes mandatory unconscious bias training, gender and ethnic sensitivity training, and things along these lines to make judges even better.

CLR: What are the biggest challenges facing the California judiciary over the next decade?

Chief Justice: Over the next decade, the issues will be quite challenging because our issues in the judiciary reflect the issues of California. As our Governor talks about California for All, and homelessness and shifts in treatment to mental health and shifts in land use and environmental permits, all of that will come to the courts. I see changes and challenges in climate change, groundwater, greenhouse gas emissions, and science that the courts will be faced with resolving. I also see an aging population and an increase in services needed. And this is on top of all the other issues we still have that we have not quite resolved. Additionally, the judiciary is reliant on the state general fund, so I am a recession leader. I came in during the Great Recession and had to make painful decisions, closing courthouses and courtrooms, laying people off, and changing the size of our work staff. I have always lived with great concern that the next recession will affect people coming to court and having their cases heard.

CLR: You mentioned the Great Recession, how do the challenges to the California courts and the people in California in the current COVID-19 pandemic compare to the challenges you had to address as Chief Justice during the Great Recession?

Chief Justice: During the Great Recession, the judicial branch had to figure out how to provide meaningful access to justice as court budgets dwindled. Now we must also decide how best to protect access to our courts while also doing our part to slow the spread of this virus. We must preserve the rule of law to protect the rights and liberties of all Californians, at the same time as all state government strives to protect their health and wellbeing.

CLR: You have used your emergency powers as Chief Justice to attempt to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you used those powers before and, if not, what made this crisis different?

Chief Justice: Presiding judges of superior courts can petition the Chief Justice—as chair of the Judicial Council—for an emergency order to support their local needs. The law allows local courts to request a number of relief measures, including declaring holidays to recalculate filing deadlines, extending temporary restraining orders, holding sessions elsewhere in the county, extending the time for a criminal trial to be held, and others. Several county courts have requested emergency orders during the wildfires that have ravaged certain parts of California in recent years. But this COVID-19 pandemic is different in its scope, as it affects every county in the state, just as it affects every state in our nation. The situation changes so quickly due to how fast the virus spreads. We realized county-by-county emergency orders were no longer adequate and the judicial branch needed a more statewide approach. Thanks to the Governor’s statewide emergency order granting the council and the Chief Justice certain temporary authorities, we’re now able to adapt more quickly and in a more consistent way. I assured the Governor that we would assume this responsibility with utmost care and judiciousness. Thus far, we’ve used temporary emergency orders to give superior courts some relief and flexibility from the social distancing guidelines by temporarily extending statutory deadlines and relaxing rules on conducting remote proceedings, such as depositions, arraignments, and hearings. We’ve had to make tough decisions, such as setting bail statewide at $0 for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies to “safely reduce jail populations” and staying eviction and foreclosure proceedings to protect Californians from losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CLR: During the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you balance the need for access to justice in civil and criminal cases with the safety of people who would otherwise be in a California courtroom or courthouse, including court staff?

Chief Justice: The Judicial Council’s duty to support our courts in delivering consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible justice for the public statewide has not changed. We must play our part in “flattening the curve” for our state and nation as this pandemic evolves. We must continue essential court services while protecting the health and safety of the public, court employees, attorneys, litigants, judicial officers, law enforcement, and staff and inmates in detention facilities. This is a team effort, as all of these justice stakeholders contribute to the essential work of the courts. We are all connected through our shared commitment to provide access to justice. But our efforts are not only to ensure access to justice on critical issues during this emergency, but also to temporarily and safely relieve our courts of the large amount of people who ordinarily visit our courthouses each day so that the public remains safe, and our judges and core staff can keep urgent matters moving. To do this, it’s very possible we’ll need to make more emergency orders and changes to our court rules. Council staff will play a critical role, as we’ll continue to rely on their legal expertise and knowledge of rules and practice. In addition, we continue to listen to suggestions from our justice system partners, the public, and the courts, and we greatly appreciate all of the input. By working together, I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice.

CLR: You have talked about improving the California courts use of technology over your nearly decade as Chief Justice. How can California courts use technology effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic to help strike a balance between access to justice and safety?

image of California Supreme Court’s Oral Argument Session, April 7-8, 2020
California Supreme Court’s Oral Argument Session, April 7-8, 2020

Chief Justice: In this time of crisis, we have an urgent, temporary need to support the digital court and use technology to help us conduct judicial proceedings and provide court services without jeopardizing health and safety. Such an approach supports both shelter-in-place and social distancing, while acting to ensure equal access for all Californians. How it is used court to court may vary depending on a court’s resources and the need and ability of its court staff. At the California Supreme Court, we’ve been webcasting our oral argument sessions since 2016. This enables the public to view the proceedings remotely, but our justices, court staff, and arguing attorneys are still present in the courtroom. So, the challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic and safe distancing forced us to adjust our process again. The stay in place order from the Governor came March 19, just three weeks before our April oral argument session. Without any time to spare, our extraordinary staff from the court and the council researched available options and made sure it all came together. In the end, we found a solution that could address the court’s social distancing and density control protocols, and enabled justices and counsel to participate remotely. Fortunately, our oral argument session went pretty smoothly, and all parties could be heard loud and clear.

CLR: There was talk that you might retire last October, when you became eligible to do so. You face a retention election in 2022. What will shape your decision about when to retire?

Chief Justice: There isn’t anything now at this moment beckoning me to retire. I continue to think about serving as long as I am strong and fit and continue to have the support and vision of what is best for California. So I don’t see an end to my term. I just think that it’s a matter of what else can we accomplish and finishing what we have started. I remain deeply focused on inequality of income issues in the judiciary. That’s the last place where those issues should arise in our justice system. I continue to want to root out where that affects us the most and take to the Legislature pilot projects and ideas for funding to eliminate the income inequality in the judiciary. I continue to think that more and more we are becoming a “do it yourself” society. So we will be seeing fewer attorneys in a vast majority of cases coming into our courts. The courts are going to have to respond to the fact that our population of users continues to be more and more self-represented, and that’s fine. It means we have to adjust our services, but I think that’s going to be our future reality.

CLR: Your Court is one of the most diverse in the nation. How does that diversity help the Court and the people of California?

Chief Justice: It’s a major strength for the people of California and it helps the Court because when we sit around the table and discuss issues of statewide concern, like all of our cases, we have incredibly rich conversations about our experiences and how we see the law and what we think the law affects. When I say the diversity of our court, I really do mean diversity writ large. We have age diversity, culture diversity, ethnic diversity, a kind of education diversity, experience diversity, and we all bring that to bear. Every day I am enriched by my colleagues’ input and we only grow from it. That diversity is wonderful.

CLR: Justice Chin has recently announced his retirement and during Governor Brown’s two terms, four new justices were appointed. How does each new justice impact the Court?

Chief Justice: Pretty significantly because, as may or may not be widely known, when a Justice announces his or her retirement, his or her caseload gets put aside in anticipation of the new justice and the new point of view. Additionally, the retiring justice begins to sort of pull back a little bit on cases that are circulating that may or may not be argued in his or her term. We often, and understandably, see a drop in productivity. To lose one chambers is significant on a seven member court. At the same time, Justice Chin and others who have announced retirement, they still weigh in on cases, but we all know it’s not going to bind the future justice. In that respect, not only do we see a drop off in taking new cases, but we also see potentially a slowdown in the conclusion and resolution of cases because a new justice may come in and the case may not be final and may want to grant a motion for reconsideration or rehearing. In addition, a new justice comes in and there is so much to acclimate to, even if you come from a Court of Appeal. I will say it’s a different environment, it’s a different mindset, it’s a different learning curve and everything is new. So again, in your first year or two, I would not expect to see a lot of production because it is a new position. Then again, I would say the other impact is you come to a group, as I did, of people who’ve known each other for decades. They know each other’s families and grandchildren and they know the peccadilloes and the issues that could garner a dissent or other things that might stand as a roadblock in a case. So when the new justice comes on, he or she has to get to know all of us, and then has to feel comfortable amongst all of us, to be able to fully give us the benefit of his or her point of view. Like any new situation, it takes time.

CLR: Were you surprised about all the public attention that your switch from the Republican Party received?

Chief Justice: I absolutely was. I did it very quietly. I let a Court staff member know because he updates my biography, and I just said, I want you to know I changed it. Then it was noticed publicly. I was a caught a little flat-footed because I didn’t expect to have to articulate publicly why I did it.

CLR: You have stated that your final decision to change party preference was a result of the confirmation hearing for Justice Kavanaugh. What about that hearing caused your switch to no party preference?

Chief Justice: I’m the mother of two young women in their twenties who are active and alert and excited and read the news. I saw their reaction, saw it through their eyes, and felt that the time had come for me to make the change. I’d been thinking about it for some time already.

CLR: Are there federal or state judges that you particularly admired or that you modeled your career after?

Chief Justice: I haven’t modeled my career after anyone in particular, but I certainly have appreciated and emulated the traits of many. Many of them are still on the bench or have recently retired. I think about someone who I worked for who became a justice and my working relationship with him was wonderful because of his courage, his candidness, and his constructive criticism: Justice Vance Raye. He was the legal affairs secretary for Governor Deukmejian and I was his deputy. He is a man of great history and there’s so much I learned from him about conducting myself and about conflict resolution. I would also point to Judge Carol Miller, who sadly passed away a few years ago. She was one of the first female judges in Sacramento County. She became a judge after she’d had her family. I enjoyed her wicked sense of humor, and I enjoyed, maybe because she had been a mom, her no nonsense approach to the attorneys in her courtroom.

CLR: You have made civic education a priority of yours as Chief Justice. What about civic education is important to you and important to the people of California?

Chief Justice: I think civics education is learning about democracy and the limits of the branches of government. I do civics with an emphasis on the judiciary because I have seen no institution that actually emphasizes the judiciary. We need it because we’re the least understood. We’re not political, and we do our work quietly and away from the public eye, even though just about everything we do is public. I think that people need to know where to go in times of stress and where and how to effectuate change and where change happens. Civic education is leadership training. Lawyers are the best people to be ambassadors of civics not only because of our education, but also our understanding of how things work and where to find relief when there’s injury. Lawyers can team, and do team, with their courts because most courts in California have some sort of a civic engagement program that pairs attorneys and judges, and attorneys are able to engage in a different kind of advocacy than judges. Judges have constraints, but attorneys can talk about past cases and talk about how they became attorneys. Students are thrilled with knowing that they could become you one day.

CLR: You established an organization called “Power of Democracy.” Why did you do that and what does it do?

Chief Justice: The Power of Democracy is an initiative I created back in 2011-2012 in light of the Great Recession and the judiciary’s inability to really be heard as a third branch of government needing sustainable baseline budgeting or funds. The Power of Democracy committee focuses on a population of kindergarten through 12th grade, where state and federal judges, lawyers, as well as community leaders and students, participate in furthering civics education. We do so not only by a website with programs, but also by partnering with Bar Associations, bringing judges into classrooms, partnering with civic engagement leaders in the county, bringing programs to the school, and encouraging and assisting on various civics projects. We’re teaching critical thinking, teamwork, and collegiality. We’re training leaders and we’re educating leaders.

CLR: What are the biggest access to justice challenges or priorities in California? What regional differences do you see?

Chief Justice: There are incredible differences in California amongst our 58 counties. Geographical changes and differences are one; urban versus rural is another. We have counties with two judges and counties with 600, and they do not – and cannot – have the same level of amenities or services. Yet justice is for all and there’s no reason why parties in Tehama County should receive different treatment and access to justice than parties in San Diego County. At the Judicial Council, we constantly seek to make sure courts are equipped to be best able to serve the public. Sometimes that discussion gets lost in what courts need. We need funding for technology, construction, language access, and we need funding for the good people who work hard in our courts. We need to fund these things so that we can provide direct, timely services to people in need. That’s a significant challenge and it always remains the issue.

CLR: You mentioned language access. Oftentimes, when people think of access, they don’t really think of language access issues. What kind of barriers and challenges do you see with language issues with the California courts?

Chief Justice: It’s a challenge because we’re such a diverse state. At least 20% of our population speaks a language other than English at home. Over 200 languages and dialects are spoken in California. When folks come to our courts and they’re in hearings or in trial, civil and criminal, meaningful access means that they understand what’s happening to them because it’s so critical. For many years, up until our efforts, language access was not really a focus. We have made an effort to study it. We had a task force that returned with recommendations. The Judicial Council adopted all the recommendations. Now we are focused on the need for language access. People need language interpreters in court, but they also need language translators at the windows. They also need language interpreters at court-ordered mandated counseling. We want people to have meaningful access. We want to set them up for success and we realize that language has been a barrier all along.

CLR: In 2018, you authored Jameson v. Desta, 5 Cal.5th 594 (2018), giving indigent parties the right to court reporters. Why was that an important decision for access to justice?

Chief Justice: Not all counties in California had been providing court reporter services for people qualified for fee waivers. So the question came up to our court because of the inconsistency of approach and treatment. We ruled that people who qualify for fee waivers also qualify for the free services of a court reporter. Without a transcript, a person can appeal, but then will immediately lose, because all rulings are presumed valid on appeal and the appellant must show error. So without a transcript to show error, everyone loses. It’s a decision that will cost the state of California money. But it’s a significant and important decision that matters if we really mean what we say about equal access to justice.

CLR: How do you approach oral argument? How important is argument to the decision-making process?

Chief Justice: Keep in mind that, by the time we set cases for oral argument, we have read the briefs multiple times. We have notes, the statutes, and the briefs, and different memorandum on different parts of the analysis. When oral argument comes, all of us are prepared. My brilliant chamber staff help me every step of the way. We all have huge binders and we all prepare differently. I review the calendar memo as well as the petition conference memo. Plus, I again take a close look and read everything as well as all of my notes. When attorneys come to argue, they only have to know and argue their one case. But, on a typical argument day, we’re hearing six cases. So we have to know six cases to the best of our ability. That is marshaling of a lot of facts and a lot of detail. We have a lot of notes to help and guide us. Additionally, once we hear oral argument, the matter is submitted and there’s 90 days until we are required to file an opinion. In those 90 days, there is a lot of back and forth amongst the justices regarding the final opinion. There is a lot of refinement and a lot of editing. To that end, oral argument is significant. Even though there may be a tentative majority for the outcome of the case already, the analysis can change. Oral argument helps us refine the analysis either by omitting or expanding different parts or by reminding us that maybe we need additional briefing because we really didn’t understand an area in the way we thought. All of us look forward to oral argument because it’s our only real conversation with the most knowledgeable people. We all enjoy it, and it’s helpful to us. And, yes, a few times oral argument has flipped the case.

CLR: What advice do you have for attorneys seeking review by the Supreme Court or advice about appellate oral advocacy?

Chief Justice: Apart from following the rules as to what the Court grants, it’s very helpful to explain why a case is significant enough for the Court to take. It is useful to point to confusion or conflict in the lower courts. That’s the first point. Thereafter, the merits briefing must be accurate with regard to your citations and the record. When you quote cases, we’re going to read them and we’re going to find out if it’s an accurate quote or not. We read every aspect of the record. By and large, the briefing that the Supreme Court receives is excellent and we rely on it, and then we do our own independent research to make sure we get to the right answer. In terms of oral argument, my best advice is never to split time with another party. The Court is not going to hear oral argument the way you have set it up in the outline in your head. You’re going to stand up and maybe you are taking issue one and your colleague is taking issue two but we want to talk about issue two now and we want you to answer issue two. It doesn’t proceed linearly and it’s distracting. It’s unsatisfying when we have to wait for counsel to speak to an issue that we want to address now. Additionally, it’s very helpful for counsel to listen closely to the question, because you can tell easily in my view where there might be a division or where there might be a split in developing the rule. You will often get hypotheticals that are not required to be answered for you to win your case. That might be something worth saying to us, and then try to answer the hypothetical anyway.

CLR: Is there a recent book or movie that was important to you and is there a legal book or movie that had significance for you?

Chief Justice: Since I’ve become Chief Justice, my extracurricular reading has certainly taken a hit. I probably listen to more books on tape than I read. I end up getting interrupted in my reading too often by what we call ASAPs and other matters that happen here. I generally stay away from movies about the law because I cannot help but bother everyone else watching by pointing out what is not right.

CLR: How do you want the public to look back on you and your legacy?

Chief Justice: I would like them to think that I was a Chief Justice for the people. That I looked at practical, problematic issues that had not ever been addressed because I see the law as belonging to the people. I’d like them to think that I was fair and inclusive and that I deeply cared about the future of California.

CLR: What else is important to know about you that would not appear in a judicial biography?

Chief Justice: I would want people to know how important my personal life has been to how I continue to think as a jurist. By that I mean not only my upbringing amongst low income immigrants and farm workers, but also my role as a parent has made me a better jurist and person than I would otherwise have been. As a parent, I’ve learned patience and I understand much better emotions and their temporary nature. And I think I understand, most of all, kindness.

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