Panel approves Pinay as Chief Justice nominee

By Ging Reyes, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau Chief

Posted at Aug 26 2010 10:12 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2010 11:14 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, California - A number of Filipinos came to the Earl Warren Building in San Francisco to show support for their kababayan, Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, at the confirmation hearing of the State Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Eleven witnesses, led by her colleagues in the courts and Filipino community leaders, heaped praises on the talent and character of Cantil-Sakauye.

The commission is chaired by Chief Justice Ronald George, and included Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, and Attorney General Jerry Brown. It had also received two-dozen letters of bipartisan support for Cantil-Sakauye.

After 2 hours, the commission unanimously approved the confirmation of Cantil-Sakauye as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

It was a proud moment for about 40 Filipinos, who applauded as they watched the proceedings at the auditorium of the State Office building.

“It’s an outstanding day for Filipino-Americans. It’s a historic day. This is so significant in the legal profession. As an attorney for 20 years, I’ve never thought I would see a Supreme Court Justice coming from our community. To have a Filipina serve as Chief Justice is just amazing!” said witness Eduardo Angeles of the Filipino-American Service Group.

“She is a phenomenal justice and well-deserving of this nomination,” added Genevieve Dominguez, another witness, who represented the Filipino bar Association of Northern California.

The State Bar panel that reviews judicial nominations gave Cantil-Sakauye a high rating.

Alice Salvo told the commission that she was exceptionally qualified, had a brilliant mind and a model judicial temperament to lead the state Supreme Court.

Only two dissenters opposed her nomination during Wednesday’s hearing.  Activist Edwin Thomas Snell said he deemed her unqualified for allegedly not upholding the rights of prisoners. Another dissenter, Atty. Geoffrey Graybill accused Cantil-Sakauye of bias toward women in family law cases.

When it was her turn to speak, the nominee described her two critics as misinformed and misguided and said she stands behind her record.  Cantil-Sakauye lauded her colleagues, jurors, attorneys and many others, for teaching her the many lessons, which she said she would bring to her post.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Cantil-Sakauye, a moderate Republican, as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court last July 22.

The daughter of Filipino farm workers, she was a prosecutor, and later a municipal and superior court judge.

In 2005, Schwarzenegger appointed her Associate Justice at the Third District Court of Appeal.

After her confirmation, Cantil-Sakauye’s name goes on the ballot in the November elections. If voters approve, she will serve a 12-year term as top judge in the country’s most populous state.

“It’s up to us, the Filipino community to campaign for her and I am going to do my darnest to make sure she gets elected,” said Los Angeles Lawyer Melvin Avanzado.

Aside from giving the 7-member court its first female majority, Justice Cantil-Sakauye would be the first non-white, the first Filipino and the first Asian to hold the position as California’s Chief Justice. Balitang America