When Patricia Guerrero, the 29th Chief Justice of California, sat down last week with Tani Cantil-Sakauye, PPIC president and CEO—and the 28th Chief Justice—the two women had plenty to talk about. “Take it from me, her schedule and calendar are quite, quite busy,” said Cantil-Sakauye. Chief Justice Guerrero runs the largest state judiciary in the nation, chairs the Judicial Council, and hears cases along with her six supreme court colleagues. But she made time to talk about her priorities and goals.
Many of the goals she touched on have been important issues for her throughout her career. “Our number one goal,” she said, “is access, fairness, diversity, and inclusion.” Preserving public trust and confidence in the judiciary is another key focus that has long been a concern for her. But one of her priorities as chief justice is an issue she hadn’t focused on before she was elected: “Our budget—and how important it is to have adequate, sustainable funding for the judicial branch.”
Prioritizing these issues involves multipronged, collaborative efforts. For example, making the judicial system accessible to all involves working with self-represented litigants and encouraging more pro bono services, leveraging technology to enable remote court proceedings, addressing staffing needs, and more.
Guerrero also stressed the need for “three-branch solutions,” citing the new CARE Court framework as an important example of collaboration across the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Created by the governor and approved by the legislature, CARE Courts are now being implemented by the Judicial Council and the courts. “A big shoutout to the seven counties that adopted it: Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, Tuolumne – and soon LA,” she said. CARE Court—designed to address mental health and substance abuse disorders—has only been operating since October 1, but Guerrero is optimistic: “We’re hopeful about implementing it in a way that will help people in important areas.”
While collaborating with the other branches of government is “critical to the work that we do,” Guerrero said that judicial independence must always be a major priority. “Judicial independence is critically important to our democracy,” she said, and judges play a key role in communicating this to the public. “We do not make decisions based on the popularity of the issues,” she added. “People need to see that it doesn’t matter what our own personal preferences are—that our rulings are based on the facts and the law.”
PPIC’s Speaker Series on California’s Future invites thought leaders and changemakers with diverse perspectives to participate critically, constructively, and collaboratively in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.
PPIC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it support, endorse, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Any opinions expressed by event participants are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect any position of the Public Policy Institute of California.