Senator demands apology for assemblyman's comments on the chief justice [Updated]
The head of the state Legislative Women’s Caucus called Tuesday for a state assemblyman to apologize for remarks that referred to the physical appearance and personality of the chief justice of the California Supreme Court.
Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) sought the apology from Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) for comments he made during a legislative hearing on a bill he introduced to give judges more say in the running of the state’s courts. Calderon said he meant no disrespect to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
The assemblyman said in an interview that he was making a point that the bill was being advocated on policy merits rather than based on some bias against the chief justice. The assemblyman recalled saying his support for the bill has nothing to do with how "smart" or "nice" the chief justice is.
"It isn’t that she isn’t pretty," he said in the interview, recounting his comments in committee.
[Updated, May 4, 4:18 p.m.: A tape of the Judiciary Committee meeting was made public Wednesday afternoon. The panel approved a Calderon bill giving local judges more say in court operations currently centralized under the chief justice. Calderon’s full comment on the chief justice is: "It isn't 'Is she nice?' Cause she is; 'Is she smart?' Cause she is; 'Is she attractive?' Cause she is. It isn't about that."]
Evans fired off a letter asking for a formal apology.
"Your remarks regarding the chief justice were degrading and inappropriate," Evans wrote. "As the leader of California’s Judiciary, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye should be taken seriously and not spoken about in such a dismissive and frivolous manner."
"It is crucial that women be valued for more than just being 'nice' or 'attractive,' " Evans added.
Calderon said his comments were misconstrued and he accused Evans of making them an issue as a proxy for the Administrative Office of the Courts, which opposes his legislation.
"It’s a sideshow," Calderon said, disputing Evans’ claim that his remarks were degrading.
"That’s not the way I see women," he said. "I see them as equals." Asked if he will apologize, Calderon said, "I certainly apologize if anybody misunderstood it."
-- Patrick McGreevy
Photos (Top) Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye; Assemblyman Charles Calderon. (Bottom) Sen. Noreen Evans