Other Voices: Justices deserve retention
Most voters will not recognize four names on their November ballot. They are Cole Blease, Kathleen Butz, Fred Morrison and Tani Cantil Sakauye – justices currently serving on the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District – who are up for retention. There are no challengers in this nonpartisan election; your choice is a “yes” or “no” vote. Although the justices may not be familiar to you, there are several reasons why each of them should receive your “yes” vote.
The Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, is one of six State of California intermediate appellate districts. Geographically, the Third District stretches from the Oregon border south to Mono County and west to the coastal range. Nevada County is one of the 23 counties that comprise the Third District. Other counties in the Third District are Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba.
A total of 11 justices serve on this court, and working in panels of three, they review judgments of the trial courts in all the counties within the district. The Third District’s location in Sacramento makes this court unique among California’s intermediate appellate courts because of the number of appeals involving governmental powers and administration. The justices have worked diligently to make their appellate court one of the most efficient and productive in our state.
The justices also have made it one of the most innovative courts. Among other things, they have implemented an outreach program in which, several times each year, the justices go to high schools to meet personally with students and answer questions about the judicial process. Then the justices hear oral argument in actual cases to give students a first-hand look at how the legal system works. This program, which visited Nevada County and Nevada Union High School in May 2001, has been very well received by the 16 schools visited to date, and has won a prestigious award from the state Judicial Council.
Lastly, and most importantly, the justices are well qualified to continue to serve on the court. They have undergone a thorough investigation and evaluation by the State Bar, focusing on their legal skills, experience, work ethic, objectivity, temperament, and respect for the law. Their qualifications have been reviewed by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, the Attorney General of California, and a senior presiding justice at a public confirmation hearing. Each justice who is up for retention has successfully gone through this process and has been found qualified to serve as an appellate justice.
Voters can also consider that justices are constantly evaluated by attorneys and others interested in the legal system. A justice who acts inappropriately can be disciplined and even removed from office by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Thus, the fact that these four appellate justices are on the ballot for retention reflects that they have been found qualified for office and have performed honorably in carrying out their responsibilities.
Justice Blease has served on the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, since 1979, following a distinguished career in the civil practice of law. Justice Butz, who practiced law in Nevada County and then served as a Nevada County Superior Court judge for almost seven years, was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2003. Justice Morrison was a federal prosecutor and trial judge in Sacramento County before his elevation to the Court of Appeal in 1994. Justice Cantil Sakauye, who was a deputy district attorney and then Sacramento County Superior Court judge for 14 years, was appointed to the Court of Appeal in January 2005.
Justices Blease, Butz, Morrison and Cantil Sakauye are conscientious jurists who have served the public well, and they deserve your “yes” vote. More information about Justices Blease, Butz, Morrison and Cantil Sakauye and the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, is available on the Court’s Web site, http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/courtsofappeal/3rdDistrict/justices.htm, and on the League of Women Voters Web site, http://www.smartvoter.org.
Arthur G. Scotland is the Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District.
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