By Toni G. Atkins
Ensuring a fair and accessible system of justice is one of the most important responsibilities we have in our society. During the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in several events that focused on ways we can make our justice system better.
One event I was excited to be involved in was a summit between leaders of the Legislature and leaders of the courts, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. It was the first time such a summit has taken place.
It’s no secret that those of us who write the laws and those who interpret them haven’t always seen eye to eye. The summit allowed for a good exchange of ideas between our two branches of government, and I was very pleased that Attorney General Xavier Becerra was also on hand to present the executive branch perspective.
I believe keeping this dialogue going will help us achieve our common goal—improving the system that affects the lives of so many Californians.
Meanwhile, my Senate colleagues and I were honored to host the chief justice for her State of the Judiciary Address — the first time the Senate Chamber has been the site of this annual event.
Her remarks, as always, were incredible.
The chief justice started by thanking former Governor Jerry Brown for his work to diversify the courts, making them more representative.
She then focused on several challenges, including income inequality, language barriers, and intentional or unintentional bias, and pointed out some ways that policy changes and technological advances have increased access to the courts.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye finished her address by quoting from “Hamilton: An American Musical.” She didn’t sing — but there’s always next year.
Fortunately, there was also no singing when I joined her for a discussion as part of a conference sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges and the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
The conference focused on the steps the court system and the Legislature are taking to address sexual harassment, and what more needs to be done to rid our society of this toxic problem.
Our discussion was moderated by the Honorable Joan P. Weber, the longtime San Diego trial judge. It was good to see her, and it is good to have her leading on this issue. Many prominent San Diego women judges were also on hand representing out great region.
You don’t have to be a judge or a legislator or even a lawyer to help improve our justice system. Here in San Diego, the Superior Court is looking to fill two vacancies on the San Diego County Juvenile Justice Commission.
The mission of the Juvenile Justice Commission is to promote an effective juvenile justice system that is “operated in an environment of credibility, dignity, fairness and respect for the youth of San Diego County.”
Applications are available on the court’s website, sdcourt.ca.gov. The application deadline is April 12. If you are interested, be sure to apply soon.
We all have a role to play — and work to do — if we want to make sure “and justice for all” is reality.
— Toni G. Atkins represents the 39th District in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.