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Hail to the chief

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The diet Cantil-Sakauye spoke of is four years of financial hits to the California judicial system, which lost $350 million in state General Fund support in the 2011-12 fiscal year. She relayed the message to a crowd of court officials, police, attorneys, and local judges who gathered for a special meeting in the SLO County Board of Supervisor’s chambers on Nov. 29.

THE HEAVY HITTERS:  SLO County court staffers and bigwigs like District Attorney Gerry Shea and Sheriff Ian Parkinson turned out in droves to hear a presentation and ask questions of California Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • THE HEAVY HITTERS: SLO County court staffers and bigwigs like District Attorney Gerry Shea and Sheriff Ian Parkinson turned out in droves to hear a presentation and ask questions of California Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye.

“We face challenging times,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER

Of course, everyone in the room is already aware of this fact. In addition to higher ups like District Attorney Gerry Shea and Sheriff Ian Parkinson, the room was filled with court staffers, local attorneys, and at least half a dozen San Luis Obispo Superior Court judges.

Cantil-Sakauye said she doesn’t expect additional mid-year cuts next year, but she’s been surprised in the past, and the court system can’t sustain more cuts in 2012-13. After a brief rundown of issues facing the judicial branch, she fielded questions from court staffers. Most asked her about potential cuts in the future; some just wanted to know what a day in the life is like for the chief justice.

Court employees in SLO County self imposed one furlough day per month to help address a $1 million deficit in the local budget.

According to court CEO Susan Matherly, the biggest challenge for SLO’s court will be implementing the new California Case Management System. Once implemented, the system will usher SLO County’s ancient electronic database into the 21st century by making information available online. The system’s funding seemed threatened by budget cuts, but its implementation in SLO County is still safe and on track for 2013, Cantil-Sakauye has assured local officials. Once it’s operational, SLO County will be the first in the state to convert to the program.

Cantil-Sakauye attended Cal Poly before transferring to UC Davis where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1980. She was nominated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, unanimously approved by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, and voted into the office during the November general election. She’s the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice. Chief justices are appointed to a 12-year term.

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