Schwarzenegger's chief justice nominee goes before confirmation hearing today

If confirmed, Appeal Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye would need voter approval on Nov. 2

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's nominee for California's next chief justice will go before a confirmation hearing in San Francisco today with a State Bar group's highest rating.

Schwarzenegger last month named Tani Cantil-Sakauye, 50, to succeed California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, who retires on Jan. 2. She is currently a state Court of Appeal justice in Sacramento.

The confirmation hearing will be held by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments, made up of George, Attorney General Jerry Brown and Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein. That commission Monday released a letter in which the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation said the group rated her as "exceptionally well qualified" for the post.

State Bar Commission Chair Alice Salvo said in the letter, which is dated Aug. 13, that Cantil-Sakauye has "a brilliant mind" and is "intelligent, diligent and conscientious."

Salvo also wrote, "She possesses the model judicial temperament," and said the nominee "has a well-developed array of executive and legislative skills to complement her judicial skills."

Salvo is one of 14 witnesses slated to speak at the confirmation hearing. Twelve plan to support the nomination and two to oppose it.

If the commission confirms Cantil-Sakauye, her name will go on the Nov. 2 state ballot for voter approval for a 12-year term that would begin on Jan. 3.

She would be the high court's first Filipino-American justice and its second female chief justice.

The appointments commission received a total of 25 letters supporting the nomination and two opposing it prior to an Aug. 18 deadline for comment.

Those supporting Cantil-Sakauye include state Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, several bar groups, and five appeals court justices.

The two people opposing the nomination, both of whom plan to testify Wednesday, are community activist E.T. Snell of San Bernardino

County, who contends Cantil-Sakauye is overly harsh in upholding three-strikes sentences, and attorney Geoffrey Graybill of Sacramento, who maintains she is biased in favor of women in domestic violence and child custody cases.

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