California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

This timeline tracks the evolution of the Chief Justice's Civic Learning Initiative—how it was started and what it means for our democracy in California and throughout the U.S.

California's 28th Chief Justice was sworn into office on January 3, 2011. She brought with her a strong commitment to mentoring, leading, and advocating for younger generations.


Civic Learning Initiative

Chief Justice Appointment

2011-01-04 16:51:56

2011-01-04 16:51:56

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye becomes the 28th Chief Justice of California, with more than 20 years on state trial and appellate courts, including 6 years on the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, in Sacramento.

Chief Justice Starts Conversation with State Dept of Education

2012-10-20 00:00:00

2012-10-20 00:00:00

As the Chief Justice leads the branch through the budget crisis, she is discouraged by how little the public understands about the courts and the Rule of Law. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye joins forces with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to elevate the status of civic learning in public education starting with the creation of Civic Learning Awards for California public high schools.

Chief Justice agrees to personally visit the 3 top award winning schools.

A Month Dedicated to Outreach

2013-02-05 00:00:00

2013-02-05 00:00:00

Throughout the month, the Chief Justice schedules Supreme Court outreach sessions. The Chief Justice participates in visits to schools in the Bay Area and Sacramento. The first outreach session takes place at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

“The special session will provide a group of law school and local high school students with a unique opportunity to question Supreme Court justices and to experience their constitutional democracy in action, and hopefully will inspire some to a career in public service."

Welcoming Students to the Supreme Court

2013-02-06 00:10:50

2013-02-06 00:10:50

The Chief Justice welcomes 100 students from Sacramento's McClatchy High School to hear oral arguments.

Students take the opportunity to ask questions about the court and details about the Chief Justice's career path.

Balboa High School Welcomes Chief Justice

2013-02-13 16:51:56

2013-02-13 16:51:56

The Chief Justice’s trip to Balboa H.S. was a follow-up to the Law Academy’s visit to the California Supreme Court’s oral arguments on February 5 at the University of San Francisco’s School of Law.

Sitting on the auditorium stage with Balboa Law Academy students, the Chief Justice said, “It’s a joy to my heart to see so many of you who look so much like me when I was in high school and with my friends. Given the option to stay after school for an event like this, I’m not too sure my friends and I would have come. So, I’m grateful you’re here.”

Reaching Out to Law Students

2013-02-15 00:00:00

2013-02-15 00:00:00

The Chief Justice incorporates visits to law schools during her month-long awareness campaign and travels to La Verne College of Law.

“You have such potential to do anything, whether it’s in government, politics, business, pro bono, the law,” she said in an on-stage interview.

Chief Justice Establishes the California Task Force on Civic Learning

2013-02-28 00:00:00

2013-02-28 00:00:00

The Chief Justice and State Superintendent announce the formation of a joint statewide task force charged with making recommendations for elevating the status of civics in California K-12 schools.

Civic Learning California Summit

2013-02-28 00:00:00

2013-02-28 00:00:00

The Chief Justice is joined by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Ret.), and state leaders.

“We hope this summit raises awareness about the important role and need to improve civic learning so Californians fully understand how our democracy works,” said Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye.

The Chief Justice welcomes recipients of the first annual Civic Learning Award of Excellence to attend.

1st Annual Civic Learning Award Announcement

2013-02-28 00:00:00

2013-02-28 00:00:00

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announces 22 winners of the new Civic Learning Award. The awards, presented at the Civic Learning Summit, celebrate successful efforts to engage California public high school students in civic learning and spotlight replicable models for other schools.

“It’s exciting to see how the most creative educators help students learn the workings of government and how they can engage with it,” said Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye.

Chief Names Power of Democracy Steering Committee

2013-07-01 00:00:00

2019-07-01 00:00:00

Committee is appointed by the Chief Justice to guide and support related initiatives, including the work of the K-12 Task Force and the Civic Learning Awards for California Public Schools. Justice McConnell is named chair.

“Democracy is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

“California is complicated, and there are challenges we must face every day to maintain a living, thriving democracy. Democracy is the key to perpetual freedom. In order to secure the rights to that future, we have to be civically engaged.”

Chief-Appointed Task Force on Civic Learning Presents Findings

2014-08-01 00:00:00

2014-08-01 00:00:00

“California’s current civics classes emphasize memorization over participatory skills,” and relies on a 12th-grade government course that comes too late for students already disengaged from school.

The task force receives more 600 comments on their draft report. The final report is aptly named a Blueprint for Revitalizing Civic Education in California.

NBC4's News Interview of Chief Justice on Civics

2015-01-25 00:00:00

2015-01-25 00:00:00

In January 2015, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye joins Conan Nolan on News Conference, where she highlights the importance of civics, and why it is of special interest to her as leader of the state judicial branch.

Civic Learning Partnerships

2015-02-03 16:51:56

2015-02-03 16:51:56

First Civic Learning Partnership meets in Butte County to promote recommendations of the Civic Learning Task Force Report in their local community.

Pat Brown Institute Honors Chief Justice

2015-04-15 16:51:56

2015-04-15 16:51:56

The Chief Justice is honored by the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs for bringing public attention to the crisis in civic education in the public schools.

"The Power of Civics Education"

2015-07-10 00:00:00

2015-07-10 00:00:00

The California State PTA invites Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to share her thoughts around civic engagement.

Chief Justice Recognized for Public Service

2016-04-25 00:00:00

2016-04-25 00:00:00

The 2016 Brody Distinguished Judicial Service Award recognizes the Chief Justice for her leadership in the development of several outreach programs aimed at engaging youth in civic learning and democracy.

2016 Civic Learning Awards

2016-05-03 00:00:00

2016-05-03 00:00:00

In accordance with the K-12 Task Force report, the 2016 award program expands to include recognition of all grade levels.

This year’s awards showcase the excellent civic education being done in elementary and middle schools.

State Board of Education approves greater focus on Civics

2016-07-14 00:00:00

2016-07-14 00:00:00

On July 14, the State Board of Education approved a new California History Social Science Framework–last updated in 2001– that includes greater focus on civic learning in elementary through high school.

"With the new History-Social Science Framework, our state has taken a major step forward in providing all students with the knowledge and skills they need to participate in civic life."

—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

Civic Learning Summit 2.0

2017-02-01 00:00:00

2017-02-01 00:00:00

Civic learning advocates, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, join Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye for Civic Learning Summit 2.0. Civic Learning Partnerships expand to 15 counties.

An afternoon session is held at the Third District Court of Appeal, where emerging county civic Learning Partnerships, co-led by judicial officers, networked with existing partnerships.

Video: Civic Learning Initiative

2017-05-04 00:00:00

2017-05-04 00:00:00

Educators and students join the Chief Justice in a video highlighting the importance of getting involved in civic learning and the work of the Power of Democracy Steering Committee.

Democracy in Action Academy

2017-07-01 18:07:02

2017-07-01 18:07:02

In addition to personally visiting Civic Learning Award winning schools, the Chief Justice also takes time to visit schools in her hometown of Sacramento.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye visits her alma mater Sacramento State and meets students at the Democracy in Action Academy, a summer program for high school students.

Lawmakers Adopt State Seal of Civic Engagement

2017-08-26 14:32:48

2017-08-26 14:32:48

Assembly Bill 24 is approved by the Governor Oct 9, 2017.

Legislation requires "the Superintendent, on or before January 1, 2020, to recommend to the State Board of Education criteria for awarding a State Seal of Civic Engagement to pupils who have demonstrated excellence in civics education and participation and have demonstrated an understanding of the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and the democratic system of government."

Judges in the Classroom

2018-03-01 00:00:00

2018-03-01 00:00:00

The Power of Democracy launches a pilot effort to link teachers with judges modeled after the state of Washington's program of the same name.

"Judges have always gone into classrooms and always spoke about the role we do and why we follow the rule of law and the history and look and makeup of our branch. But at the same time now, we are getting new judges, we’re getting justices involved," Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye.

California YMCA Youth & Government

2018-06-21 00:00:00

2018-06-21 00:00:00

The Chief Justice is honored for inspiring young people to become leaders of change.

Record Year for Civic Learning Awards

2019-06-11 00:00:00

2019-06-11 00:00:00

A record 92 public schools throughout California were recognized with this year's Civic Learning Awards. Now in its seventh year, the awards program recognizes public schools for their achievements in civic education.

Sandra Day O'Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education

2019-10-12 08:56:35

2019-10-12 08:56:35

Considered one of the highest honors in civics leadership, the Sandra Day O'Connor Award for the Achievement of Civics Education is presented to the Chief Justice by Mary McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts.