Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

Tani Cantil Sakauye, Associate JusticeChief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye is the 28th chief justice of the State of California. She was sworn into office on January 3, 2011, and is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice.

After former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated her as Chief Justice on July 22, 2010, the California State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission rated her as exceptionally well qualified for the position. At a public hearing on August 25, 2010, she was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, and in a general election on November 2, 2010, an overwhelming majority of voters elected her to that position.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye chairs the Judicial Council of California, the administrative policymaking body of state courts, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments. For more information read about her recent outreach activities and civics initiatives.

She has served for more than 20 years on California appellate and trial courts, and has been appointed or elevated to higher office by three governors. In 1990, Governor George Deukmejian appointed her to the Sacramento Municipal Court and in 1997, Governor Pete Wilson elevated her to the Superior Court of Sacramento County. On the superior court, she presided over both criminal and civil assignments. In 1997, she established and presided over the first court in Sacramento dedicated solely to domestic violence issues. In addition, then-Judge Cantil-Sakauye chaired the court’s criminal law committee and was a member of the presiding judge’s task force on domestic violence and the Home Court committee. In 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger nominated her to the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George appointed her to the Judicial Council of California in September 2008. She has also served as chair of the council’s Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency for the Judicial Branch, a member of the Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure Task Force and chaired its Best Practices Domestic Violence subcommittee, vice-chair of the Executive and Planning Committee, vice-chair of the Rules and Projects Committee, co-chair of the Judicial Recruitment and Retention Working Group, and as a member of the Commission for Impartial Courts Implementation Committee.

The Chief Justice was a Special Master, selected by the Supreme Court of California to hear disciplinary proceedings before the Commission on Judicial Performance. She was president of the Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, an organization dedicated to promoting civility, ethics, and professionalism in the practice of law. And was a member of the national Conference of Chief Justices Board of Directors.

Born in 1959 in Sacramento, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye attended C. K. McClatchy High School (1977) and Sacramento City College (1978) before receiving her BA from the University of California, Davis, graduating with honors in 1980. After taking a year off to visit her ancestral homeland, the Philippines, the Chief Justice entered the UC Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr., School of Law in 1981. After receiving her JD in 1984, she worked as a deputy district attorney for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, where she prosecuted a variety of criminal offenses. From 1988 to 1990, she served on the senior staff of Governor Deukmejian in two capacities: first as deputy legal affairs secretary and later as a deputy legislative secretary.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is a former board member of several nonprofit organizations and has been active in numerous professional community organizations, including membership in the California Judges Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the Sacramento Asian Bar Association, and received the Filipina of the Year Award. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Conference of Chief Justices, The American Law Institute, the Board of Visitors for UC Davis, an Advisory Board member of the Sacramento Federal Judicial Library and Learning Center Foundation, an honorary member of the Foundation for Democracy and Justice, a private nonprofit organization devoted to civics education, and is actively engaged in a civic learning initiative Your Constitution: The Power of Democracy.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is married to Mark Sakauye, a retired police lieutenant, and they have two daughters.

Awards and Honors

  • Toastmasters Communication and Leadership Award, Toastmasters International District 39
  • Women’s Leadership Award, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
  • Women’s Human Rights Award for Law, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • Judge of the Year Award, Western San Bernardino County Bar Association

  • Public Interest Excellence Award, Public Interest Law Foundation
  • Justice Award, Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice
  • Civic Action Award, California Council for the Social Studies
  • San Francisco Board of Education (Honorarium)

  • Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, American Bar Association
  • Beacon of Justice Award, Friends of the Los Angeles County Law Library
  • Hero of Hope Award, My Sister’s House
  • Person of the Year Award, Metropolitan News-Enterprise
  • Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce (Honorarium)
  • Filipino Bar Association of Northern California (Honorarium)
  • Outstanding and Influential Leadership Award, Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce

  • Woman of Distinction, California Legislative Women’s Caucus (Honorarium)
  • Distinguished Jurist, UC Davis School of Law
  • Distinguished Alumna Award, Community College League of California
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws, Southwestern Law School
  • Outstanding Judge, Pinoy Reporter
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Golden Gate University School of Law
  • Dedication to the Legal Profession & Inspiration to Others, Inland Empire Legal Association of Women
  • Policy Impact Award, California Asian Pacific Islander Policy Summit
  • Honorarium for Ongoing Support of Students, Sutter Middle School
  • Japanese American Bar Association/Philippine American Bar Association (Honorarium)
  • STARblazer Award, Philippine American Business Improvement And Development
  • Legal Impact Honoree, Asian Law Alliance
  • Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance Honoree
  • Asian Law Alliance Legal Impact Honoree, Filipino American Community
  • San Mateo County Bar Association (Honorarium)
  • Sonoma County Bar Association (Honorarium)
  • Admiration and Appreciation, The Armenian Bar Association

  • Inspire Award, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

  • Judge of the Year Award, Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association

  • President’s Award, Sacramento Asian/Pacific Bar Association

  • Trailblazer’s Award, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

  • Sacramento Domestic Violence Coordinating Council Award of Appreciation, Indigent Defense Panel