Chief justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation

The chief justice of California’s Supreme Court announced on Thursday that she had left the Republican Party following the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael Kavanaugh2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Maker of 'F*ck Trump' lipstick vows to donate proceeds to reproductive rights groups Women's civil rights are not a state issue MORE.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told CALmatters that she had been deliberating her decision for a while but made up her mind after watching the backlash following multiple sexual assault allegations leveled against Kavanaugh.

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Christine Blasey Ford, a professor from Palo Alto, Calif., testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September, alleging that Kavanaugh assaulted her in the 1980s when they were both high school students.

Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegations in his subsequent hearing and was later confirmed to the nation’s highest court.

Cantil-Sakauye said she decided to re-register without a party affiliation, saying she didn’t look at it as leaving the Republican Party.

 “I’ve been thinking about it for some time,” Cantil-Sakauye said, noting that she had discussed her decision with her husband and friends. She said they told her, “You didn’t leave the party. The party left you.”

Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed as California’s chief justice in 2011 by then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was just the second woman to hold the position. She is also the first Filipina-American state Supreme Court justice.

“I felt compelled to make a choice now,” she told CALmatters. “It better suits what I do and how I approach issues.”

Cantil-Sakauye has sparred with the Trump administration in the past, saying earlier this week that the president’s attacks on judges who rule against him are damaging the rule of law.

“We as a branch (of government) need to defend our own,” Cantil-Sakauye said during an annual meeting with reporters. The best way to do that, she said, is to promote civics education and “invite the public into our courtrooms.”

She also has taken a stand regarding federal immigration officials detaining undocumented immigrants at California courthouses.

“Enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair," she wrote in a March 2017 letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHouse Democrats leave empty chair for McGahn at hearing MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump Chris Wallace: AG Barr 'clearly is protecting' Trump MORE and then-Homeland Security Secretary John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

"They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice. I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California's courthouses,” she continued.

Cantil-Sakauye joins a number of many prominent Republicans who have disavowed or left the GOP in recent months.

Former Rep. David Jolly (Fla.) said in October that he would re-register without a party affiliation with his wife in an attempt to reject partisan politics.

"It's also just a personal rejection of partisanship. It's a very comfortable place for us to be," Jolly said of his decision.

Lori Stegmann, an elected official in Oregon, left the Republican Party in July because she could not condone “the misogyny, the racism, and the unethical and immoral behavior of the current administration.” 

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt left the party in June citing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings, which led to the separation of thousands of migrant parents and children.