Good morning, California.

“I felt compelled to make a choice now.”—Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the first Filipina-American Supreme Court justice and the second woman to serve as California’s chief justice, on her decision to leave the Republican Party.

California’s chief justice quits GOP

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has quietly given up her Republican registration and re-registered as a no-party preference voter, telling me Thursday she had become uncomfortable with the GOP’s direction nationally and in the state.

  • Cantil-Sakauye was a prosecutor before becoming a judge 28 years ago. Three different Republican governors appointed to her to trial, appellate and ultimately the Supreme Court and the leader of the judicial branch.
  • She said she made the final decision to change her registration after watching the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Cantil-Sakauye: “You can draw your own conclusions.”

In those hearings, Kavanaugh denied allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto professor, that he assaulted her when they were high school students in Maryland.

“I’ve been thinking about it for some time,” Cantil-Sakauye said, adding that she talked about the change with her husband and friends. Their consensus, she said, was that “you didn’t leave the party. The party left you.”

The 59-year-old jurist is the latest high-profile Republican to quit the GOP since President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, though she did so without fanfare.

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Brock Turner judge makes 'A Final Ask'

Former Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky

Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara County judge who was recalled in June, has reached out to his supporters for help paying off $135,000 in legal fees.

  • His missive, entitled “A Final Ask,” came after Persky raised and spent $840,000 in monetary and in-kind donations, battling in vain to keep his seat.

Persky was the first judge recalled in California in 86 years, The Mercury News notes. In 1986, voters ousted three state Supreme Court justices in a retention election, not a recall.

  • He incurred voters’ wrath after sentencing former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Persky sued to block the recall, and lost the case.
  • A judge ordered him to pay $163,000 in attorneys fees to Los Angeles attorney Fredric Woocher, who represented the campaign to remove him. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber launched the recall effort in mid-2016.

His email to supporters: “My campaign committee has spent all its resources fighting the recall, and now must pay $135,000 to satisfy the attorney fees order, which is due by December 31. I am writing to ask you to make a contribution to that effort.”

Persky, now 56, had been earning more than $186,000 as a judge, the Mercury News reported. Had he served nine more years, he’d have gotten a pension of $150,000 a year for the rest of his life.

Sean Parker’s new beach access app is all yours

The YourCoast app, via Sean Parker and the Coastal Commission.

Billionaire Internet pioneer Sean Parker’s wedding at Big Sur five years ago ran afoul of California Coastal Commission rules. Now comes his penance: an app to help Californians find the beaches of their choosing, the L.A. Times reports.

The violation: The owner of the spot where the nuptials occurred failed to obtain a permit before Parker’s wedding team used a bulldozer, built a wedding arch and brought in lots of potted plants to make Big Sur even more perfect.

  • When I spoke to him at the time, Parker acknowledged the affair was a bit indulgent and although it’s relative, he noted that many people spend too much on their weddings.

The wedding: In addition to paying fines for the Coastal Act violation, Parker spent $4.5 million on the Tolkien-themed wedding on private land at Big Sur, hiring a Hollywood costume designer to dress the 300-plus guests, including Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.

The app: YourCoast shows users a map of 1,563 access points that the commission tracks along the California coast, with photos and details such as whether there’s parking and handicap access. So beachgoers can live happily ever after.

  • In other beach news, the Monterey Bay Aquarium announced it is nearing completion on a $42 million education center on Cannery Row that will broaden marine science programs for thousands of children and teachers. The center is set to open in June.

Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard: “Our goal is to create the next generation of young leaders who are ocean-literate, confident and ready to act.”


COP out

Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 in Bonn.

Just over a year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown was on a “crusade” in Bonn, Germany, taking up the mantle of America’s commitment to combat climate change after  the Trump administration pulled the country from the Paris Climate accord.

  • This year, climate-fighters from across the globe have gathered in Katowice, Poland at the United Nations-backed Conference of the Parties 24 meeting. So who is raising that mantle of American vision this time around?

Good question. “Abysmal,” is how Gov. Brown described the proceedings during a States-side NPR interview earlier this week.

  • “There is a dearth of American leadership here,” said Tom Steyer, the billionaire and environmental activist.
  • As Axios reported, Steyer bemoaned that the United States had joined major oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia in refusing to “welcome” a United Nations study, which offered grim predictions should the global temperature be allowed to rise above one-and-a-half degrees Celsius.

Steyer also criticized Brown for failing to show up. The outgoing governor sent emissaries in his stead, including Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, and his senior advisor, Ken Alex.

Alex, defending his boss: The governor “feels he can be most effective in California.”

Who is Ken Alex? According to CALmatters environmental reporter Julie Cart, who profiled Brown’s “climate concierge” this fall, he “may may be the most consequential environmental authority California has ever known.”

Get to know him here.

A heartbreaking Camp Fire map

Searchers sifting Paradise rubble for human remains.

A map of human remains found in the aftermath of Butte County’s Camp Fire “paints a terrible picture of age, infirmity and, in some instances, stubbornness,” The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Working with death data gleaned under the California Public Records Act, The Times found that 60 percent of the victims found by searchers were in their 70s, 80s or 90s, and 60 percent were found inside their homes, “buildings that under normal circumstances offer comfort and refuge.”

Among the victims: An 85-year-old woman who died in a pickup truck after being evacuated from a retirement home, a 74-year-old man who got a quarter-mile from his house before the fire overcame him, and a 67-year-old woman who wouldn’t leave Paradise with her 25-year-old daughter.

“I was defeated,” the anguished daughter told The Times. “But I could’ve waited longer. Maybe I could’ve gotten someone else to convince her.”

Transition watch

Daniel Zingale

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom tapped Daniel Zingale, a top aide to former Govs. Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Maria Shriver during her time as California’s first lady to be his senior adviser on strategy and communications.

And perhaps taco trucks.

  • Most recently, Zingale has been senior vice president of the California Endowment, a huge private health foundation.
  • Before that he was Shriver’s chief of staff, Davis’ cabinet secretary and director of the California Department of Managed Health Care.
  • He also was executive director of AIDS Action in Washington, D.C., and political director of Human Rights Campaign.

In a commentary for CALmatters, Zingale offer “disruptive ideas for keeping the spirit of California up.” Among the suggestions: close a prison, open a university, create a surgeon general’s position, and:

Allow a taco truck to park right at the steps to the Capitol. Visitors from all over the world, and your staff working those long hours, will thank you.”

The day Judge Newsom offered me a hand

Retired Appeals Court Judge William Newsom, 1934-2018

Judge William Newsom was presiding over a trial involving electioneering allegations against the Humboldt County sheriff, and I was a 21-year-old cub reporter covering my first big story for the weekly Arcata Union as I finished my degrees at Humboldt State University.

The case ended, people scurried, the judge motioned to me to follow him to his chambers. The memory is hazy 42 years later. But this I remember:

  • Judge Newsom, seated behind his desk, had seen that green, called me son, and asked if there was there anything about the proceeding that I didn’t understand? If so, he’d be happy to explain it to me.
  • Years later, working for the L.A. Times, I visited Mr. Newsom at his place in Dutch Flat for a story I was doing about Gov. Gray Davis, and told him that story. He clearly remembered the trial, though I don’t think he remembered the hand he offered to me.

Gov. Jerry Brown and many other luminaries offered remembrances to mark the death Wednesday of the father of Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. He traveled in rarefied circles.

  • But on one day in 1976, William Newsom took the time to help some kid who had no pedigree. It was a kindness I’ll never forget.

P.S.: The sheriff, a genial fellow named Gene Cox, got past his legal difficulties and went on to be reelected. In 1982, Cox, who had a habit of not carrying a firearm, answered a call and was killed by a man with a shotgun.

Commentary at CALmatters

Dan Schnur, former no-party-preference candidate: A new centrist third party movement should look for allies among the Legislature’s moderate Democratic caucus and New Way Republicans to facilitate productive trans-partisan conversation. Political centrists believe a balanced approach is the best path forward for California, but would be foolish to ignore ideas from others who with different ideological perspectives.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you Monday.