In the United States, the judiciary is supposed to be independent from the political branches of government, but lately that hasn’t stopped activist judges.
Democrats have effectively weaponized the judiciary against President Donald Trump, and the latest card-carrying member of this anti-Trump resistance is a state Supreme Court chief justice. On Thursday, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced that she was leaving the Republican Party, effectively guaranteeing a liberal majority on the state Supreme Court.
Despite her former Republican affiliation, Cantil-Sakauye has been a prominent critic of the Trump administration. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back for the California jurist was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
In a telephone interview with CALmatters, Cantil-Sakauye said that she has found herself increasingly at odds with the GOP’s national agenda. However, she finally decided to re-register as a no-party-preference voter after watching the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“You can draw your own conclusions,” she told the publication.
Kavanaugh was confirmed despite uncorroborated sexual assault allegations from Palo Alto professor and psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, who was unable to produce any compelling evidence that the U.S. Supreme Court nominee mistreated her 36 years earlier.
Other accusers who subsequently came forward were likewise unable to corroborate their version of events. One accuser was referred to the Justice Department for investigation after making allegedly false claims, and another recanted her story outright.
Cantil-Sakauye was a successful prosecutor before she became a judge 28 years ago, and she was appointed to California’s Supreme Court in 2011. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger first appointed Cantil-Sakauye to an appellate court before nominating her to the California Supreme Court as chief justice.
She maintains that she only left the GOP after a period of soul-searching and reflection, and she doesn’t believe that she is turning her back on the party.
“I’ve been thinking about it for some time,” Cantil-Sakauye said. Before deciding to quit the GOP, she said that she discussed the decision with her husband and friends, who told her, “You didn’t leave the party. The party left you.”
“I felt compelled to make a choice now,” she told CALmatters. “It better suits what I do and how I approach issues.”
Although she only recently left the Republican Party, Cantil-Sakauye stopped pretending to be a conservative long ago. Earlier this week, she lambasted the president for statements he made regarding partisan judges who repeatedly rule against his administration.
“We as a branch (of government) need to defend our own,” Cantil-Sakauye told reporters during an annual press conference. She suggested “invit[ing] the public into our courtrooms” and promoting civics education as a means of accomplishing her proposal.
In effect, Cantil-Sakauye is endorsing judicial overreach. Since Trump was elected, state judges have habitually rendered sweeping decisions which clearly violate the constitutional separation of powers. In cases dealing with the president’s travel ban, and immigration and transgender military service policies, lower court judges have disregarded the law simply to obstruct a conservative agenda with which they disagree, only to have the Supreme Court later intercede to right these injustices.
Cantil-Sakauye is no exception. In March 2017, the California jurist wrote a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, bashing federal efforts to respond to sanctuary cities.
“Enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair,” she wrote, defending a policy that allows local law enforcement to ignore their federal responsibility to report the release of illegal aliens.
“They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice. I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California’s courthouses,” Cantil-Sakauye concluded.
Until her decision to leave the Republican Party, California’s Supreme Court would have technically been split, with four justices appointed by Republican governors and — once Joshua Groban is confirmed at a hearing next week — four by Democratic Gov. Brown.
However, Cantil-Sakauye was a Republican in name only, and by leaving the GOP she simply makes public what citizens of California already knew.