A week after telling federal officials to stop “stalking undocumented immigrants” in the state’s courthouses, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye says she’s none too happy about President Trump’s disparaging comments about judges either.

“I think it is very threatening to the third branch of government,” Cantil-Sakauye said in an interview for KQED Newsroom.

“It’s an indication of not treating the three branches as co-equal,” she added. “And it’s troubling to all of us to hear that, because it’s an attack on the public confidence and trust and in the judicial branch’s rulings.”

Her letter last week to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was received less than enthusiastically. Sessions’ office said simply they’re reviewing the matter, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) blamed state and local sanctuary city laws that limit their options for apprehending wanted individuals.

“The first thing I take from that response is they obviously have stepped up enforcement activities,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “That to me is an admission of enforcement activity increases, unlike what was happening in the Obama administration.”

The chief justice said that while California was the first state to ask the federal government to stop enforcing immigration laws in their courts, it won’t be the last.

She noted that Washington state’s chief justice sent a similar letter.

“Additionally, I know that the New Mexico Superior Court is hearing many issues and complaints and they’re determining what they can and want to do in this situation,” she added. “And I’ve read about it in Colorado, I’ve read about it in Texas, and I know that the chiefs are thinking about this.”

Perhaps because she was appointed to the court by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010 as a registered Republican, the chief justice’s letter has gotten the attention of national media. That surprised her. But she also sees this as a golden opportunity to emphasize the importance of maintaining people’s faith in the courts.

If the federal crackdown continues, she says, it will make communities less safe.

“People will not report, they will not cooperate,” she said. “There will be fewer witnesses against bad guys. And I can’t believe that that was their intent of their actions if they thought about that.”

California’s Chief Justice: Trump Dissing Judges Threatens the Courts 24 March,2017Scott Shafer
  • virgil

    This is absolutely absurd–even Orwellian. The chief justice of the CA Supreme Court objects to the enforcement of law in CA court houses!! ICE officers who may well have lawful deportation orders issued by her fellow judges on the federal bench!! And she accuses ICE of “stalking” illegal aliens?? You know you really can’t blame illegal aliens for being scoflaws when folks like Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye have given them the impression that there are no negatives to defying federal immigration courts.

  • virgil

    What’s next? Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye gonna open up CA court houses as sanctuaries?

  • Kurt thialfad

    This notion that people wouldn’t contact the police out of fear of deportation is simply not true.
    As far as testifying as a witness, there is the U visa.
    Besides, sanctuary policies are illegal.

  • Skip Conrad

    I guess I don’t understand this. People are screened when entering a courthouse building, are they not? You show ID, empty your pockets; go through the metal detector. Wouldn’t any illegal alien fail this screening? Unless, of course the person has a U-visa, permitting him to testify in a proceeding.

    Also, any sanctuary policy would not be applicable in this situation. Sanctuary policies prevent local cops from enforcing federal immigration law. If you have federal agents enforcing federal law, that overrides any sanctuary policy. I mean, federal cops can enforce federal law whether or not there is a sanctuary policy in place.

    • Dan Brekke

      California doesn’t require courthouse visitors to show an ID. You do need to take off your belt, though.


Scott Shafer

Scott Shafer migrated to KQED in 1998 after extended stints in politics and government to host The California  Report. Now he covers those things and more as senior editor for KQED's Politics and Government Desk. When he's not asking questions you'll often find him in a pool playing water polo. Find him on Twitter @scottshafer

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