California’s Chief Justice Would Be An Ideal Choice to Replace Justice Antonin Scalia
By Terry Friedman
Our nation should not suffer a deadlocked, eight member United States Supreme Court unable to resolve major cases for a year or more. It may be a vain idea in this era of hyper-partisanship to suggest a qualified candidate for nomination to the Court. Yet, such a judge exists.
For five years, the California Supreme Court has been ably led by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. A Republican, appointed to the bench and elevated to her current position by three Republican Governors, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has demonstrated the capacity to bridge ideology on the California Supreme Court. She is smart, principled and articulate. Her balanced opinions are practical, reflecting respect for precedent and appreciation of changing societal values. The court she leads is so nationally distinguished that, along with her, three other California Supreme Court justices – Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, Leondra Kruger and Goodwin Liu – have been mentioned as possible U.S. Supreme Court candidates, too. For all these reasons, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is the ideal person to assume the awesome power of the swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.
A vacancy on our highest court imposes a vital constitutional duty on the other two branches of government. President Barack Obama has announced that he will fulfill his obligation to nominate a worthy successor to Justice Antonin Scalia. He could pick someone who would be the fifth liberal vote. But that nominee will not be confirmed by the Republican Senate. That is why he should choose someone that responsible Republican and Democratic senators could support. Otherwise, our Supreme Court will suffer the same gridlock that grips Congress.
President Obama has an historic opportunity. By nominating California Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to the U.S. Supreme Court, he would demonstrate the post-partisanship ambitions that he brought to the White House, and move our country away from the rancor that paralyzes us.
Terry Friedman is a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge, who previously served as a Democratic Member of the California State Assembly.