Hon. Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Ret.)


Available for: Mediations, Case Evaluations, Consultations, Moot Courts, Mock Trials, Special Master

Hon. Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye (Ret.) joined ADR Services, Inc. in 2023 after a lifelong career of serving the law with integrity. She previously served as the 28th Chief Justice of California.

A native of Sacramento, California, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in rhetoric before earning her J.D. from UC Davis School of Law. She began her legal career as a Deputy District Attorney in Sacramento County, where she spent four years prosecuting numerous felony and misdemeanor cases in jury trials to verdict. After that, she served on the senior staff of Governor George Deukmejian in two capacities: first as Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary and later as Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has served for 32 years on California appellate and trial courts, and has been appointed or elevated to higher office by three governors. In 1990, Governor Deukmejian appointed her to the Sacramento Municipal Court and in 1997, Governor Pete Wilson elevated her to the Superior Court of Sacramento County. As a Superior Court Judge, she established and presided over the first court in Sacramento dedicated solely to domestic violence issues. In addition, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye chaired the court’s criminal law committee and was a member of the Presiding Judge’s task force on domestic violence and the Home Court committee. In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to the Third District Court of Appeal.

After Governor Schwarzenegger nominated her as Chief Justice of California on July 22, 2010, the California State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission rated her as exceptionally well-qualified for the position. At a public hearing on August 25, 2010, she was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, and in a statewide general election on November 2, 2010, she was elected by an overwhelming majority of California voters. She was sworn into office on January 3, 2011, becoming the first person of color, first Asian-Filipina American, and the second woman to serve as the state’s Chief Justice.

As Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye was responsible for all administrative, budget, and policy decisions of the highest court in the state, while maintaining the same caseload and duties as the Associate Justices, including deciding petitions for review, extraordinary writs, and authoring court opinions that resolved the most important and conflicted areas of California law. Her tenure on the Supreme Court was marked by her rigorous analysis of legal issues and her commitment to upholding the rule of law. Additionally, she served as Chair of the Judicial Council of California, the administrative policymaking body of state courts, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

As head of the California judiciary, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has championed judicial reform, working to improve access to justice, advocating for greater transparency, and reforming state court funding models that disproportionately impacted low-income individuals. She was a leader in revitalizing civic learning through her Power of Democracy initiative, which was developed to inform Californians about the courts and the role of the judiciary. In an effort to improve transparency, she opened meetings of the Judicial Council and its advisory bodies that were once closed to the public and made public comment more accessible.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye’s leadership has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including the 2012 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, the highest award bestowed by the American Bar Association in recognition of the accomplishments of women lawyers in the nation who have excelled in their field. In 2022, she was the recipient of the California Lawyers Association’s inaugural Judicial Excellence Award, which was established to recognize a member of the California Judicial Branch who exemplifies commitment to the improvement of the administration of justice and preserving the rule of law.

Throughout her career, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye has remained committed to the principles of fairness, integrity, and justice. Her unwavering dedication to these values has made her a respected and influential figure in the legal community, and an exemplar for aspiring judges and attorneys.


  • Juris Doctor, University of California at Davis, School of Law   1984
  • Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric, University of California at Davis, Dean’s List   1980


Neutral, ADR Services, Inc.    2023-Present

  • Handles mediations, case evaluations, consultations, moot courts, and mock trials in all areas of civil law, including Employment, Business, Wage & Hour, Personal Injury, Government Claims Act, Insurance, Real Estate, Healthcare, and others.

President & CEO of The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)    2023-Present

  • Responsible for and oversees this charitable trust, nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank whose mission is to inform and improve public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research.

Chief Justice of California   2011-2022

  • Appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments and later elected statewide to the same position.Three separate areas of responsibility:
  1. Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, the highest court in the state.
  • Responsible for all administrative, budget and policy decisions of the seven-justice court and staff.
  • Maintain the same caseload and duties as all of the other justices, including the privilege of deciding petitions for review, extraordinary writs, and authoring court opinions that resolve the most important and conflicted areas of California law.
  1. Chair of the Judicial Council, a separate constitutional body in charge of the judiciary statewide.
  • Lead the third branch of government, the judicial branch of California.
  • Lead the Judicial Council, a constitutional entity consisting of appointed justices, judges, legislators, lawyers, and court staff, and collectively responsible for all rule and policymaking for the California judicial branch – the largest law-trained and most diverse judiciary in the country.
  • Responsible for the annual multibillion-dollar budget of the statewide judicial branch.
  • Responsible for the 800-member judicial staff.
  1. Head of the Judiciary
  • Represent the judiciary with the other two branches of government, the executive and legislative branches.
  • Lead the judiciary on equity initiatives, surveys, studies and new proposals.

Third District Court of Appeal, Associate Appellate Justice    2005-2011

  • Appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments and later elected to the same position.
  • Heard and resolved both criminal and civil appeals and writs arising from 23 state courts of record in 23 counties under the legal jurisdiction of the Third District.

Sacramento Superior Court, Judge    1997-2005

  • Appointed by Governor Pete Wilson and later elected to same position.
  • Presided over serious felony matters including jury and bench trials and all civil matters including jury and bench trials.

Sacramento Municipal Court, Judge    1990-1997

  • Appointed by Governor George Deukmejian.
  • Presided over criminal matters, including misdemeanor and low-level felony hearings and bench and jury trials, and civil matters, including both bench and jury trials.

California Governor’s Office, Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary    1989-1990

  • Assisted the Legislative Affairs Secretary to Governor George Deukmejian on all legislation during the legislative session.
  • Responsible for specific legislation pertaining to designated areas of law.
  • Advocated directly with California legislators on legislation of interest to the Governor.
  • Authored legislative memoranda, advice and letters to legislators, executives and other states.
  • Met as directed with specific legislators on behalf of the Governor.

California Governor’s Office, Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary    1988-1989

  • Assisted the lead lawyer to Governor George Deukmejian on all litigation against the Governor and the executive branch.
  • Advocated the Governor’s position in court.
  • Assisted and directed lawyer teams in brief writing and strategy regarding the Governor’s interests.
  • Represented the Governor’s interests to executive branch legal departments.
  • Liaised with the California Attorney General’s Office regarding relevant state litigation.
  • Drafted legal letters and memoranda for a wide variety of recipients, including other heads of states and other countries at the direction of and on behalf of the Governor.
  • Advised the Governor upon request.

Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, Deputy District Attorney    1984-1988

  • First Chair, prepared and prosecuted misdemeanor and felony cases in jury trials to verdict.


  • University of Virginia, Masters of Public Safety program, Adjunct Professor (online), 2022-Present
  • National Judicial College, Board Member, 2022-Present
  • Brennan Center For Justice, (NYU) State Court Reports, Advisory Board Member, 2023-Present
  • California LAW Pathway, Leadership Advisory Council Member, 2022-Present

Representative Cases


  • In a case of alleged wrongful termination of a whistleblower, established a right to trial by jury on a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, but not on a statutory cause of action for retaliatory termination.
  • In the context of a civil action brought against an employer following an explosion at a manufacturing facility, held that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act did not preempt state law claims under California’s unfair competition law and fair advertising law.
  • Determined what documents constitute part of a “personnel file” or a file “used for any personnel purposes” in an employment case between a firefighter and a public entity employer.


  • Resolved a split among the lower courts in decision holding that a business partner could recover treble damages in civil action for fraudulent diversion of a partnership’s cash distributions.
  • In the case of a nurse suing a staffing agency for whom she worked, then the medical center at which the agency placed her, clarified the case law regarding privity and claim preclusion, deciding that the medical center was not in privity with a staffing agency for the purposes of claim preclusion.

Wage and Hour

  • Established the standard for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor under California wage orders in the context of a class action brought by delivery drivers against a nationwide delivery company.
  • In an employee’s civil wage and hour suit, determined that an employee cannot properly bring breach of contract or negligence causes of action against a third-party payroll company which provided payroll processing services to the employee’s employer.
  • Determined that retail store employees’ time spent waiting for and undergoing an employer’s mandatory exit search was part of an employee’s “hours worked” under California wage orders.

Personal Injury

  • Ruled that the civil claims of a metal foundry worker who developed interstitial pulmonary fibrosis brought against companies that supplied products for use in the foundry’s manufacturing processes were not barred by the component parts doctrine.
  • In a wrongful death suit against a retail business following the sudden cardiac arrest and death of a customer in its store, found that the common law duty of reasonable care does not require the retailer to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) available for use in a medical emergency.

Government Claims Act

  • Affirmed summary judgment in favor of a municipality on dangerous condition of public property claim, finding that design immunity defense does not require knowledge of design standards or awareness of deviation from those standards by the approving public entity.


  • In the context of coverage dispute between insurer and corporate insured, held that Insurance Code section 520 requires an insurer to honor an insurance agreement even after the defense and indemnity obligations under it have been assigned to another entity.
  • Held that a self-service storage unit provider’s indemnity agreement included in a storage space rental contract was not a policy of insurance subject to regulation under the Insurance Code.


  • In a case brought by emergency room physicians against health care service plans, found that the plans may be liable in tort to emergency service providers for negligently delegating their financial responsibility to medical provider group that they knew or should have known would not be able to pay for emergency care provided to the health plan’s enrollees.


  • Determined that a statute prohibiting intentional recording of a telephone call without the consent of all parties to the call prohibits nonconsensual recording by both parties to the call as well as nonparties.
  • Determined that undocumented immigrants were not prohibited from admission to the California State Bar based on their undocumented status.
  • Held that, when presented with a lawful subpoena, a social media service provider may not refuse to disclose communications based on the lawful consent exception to the federal Stored Communications Act when those communications were configured by the user to be public.

Sexual Misconduct/Abuse

  • Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (retired) has written and joined numerous sexual misconduct decisions as an appellate and chief justice. While not recent, as a prosecutor she tried criminal sexual assault cases and as an appellate justice reviewed criminal and civil sexual misconduct cases on appeal. As the head of the judiciary and the supreme court, she has initiated and overseen the investigation of several sexual misconduct cases involving court personnel. Lastly, she was asked by the legislative leadership and was involved in the creation of their misconduct unit.