(CNN) – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's newly-minted nominee for Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court upon confirmation will be the first Asian-American to head the state's judiciary and would give the court its first ever female majority.
The Republican governor announced his choice, appeals judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Wednesday.
"Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has a distinguished history of public service and understands that the role of a justice is not to create law, but to independently and fairly interpret and administer the law," said Governor Schwarzenegger in a statement. "She is a living example of the American Dream and when she is confirmed by the voters in November, Judge Cantil-Sakauye will become California's first Filipina chief justice; adding to our High Court's already rich diversity."
Cantil-Sakauye, a 50 year-old mother of two young girls, has served as an associate justice for California's Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento since 2005. The district includes 23 counties in the Northern part of California.
The Chief Justice nominee served as a superior court judge in Sacramento County and a Municipal Court Judge prior to sitting on the appellate court.
The nomination of an Asian American woman to chief justice in the most populous state in the nation is being celebrated in many legal circles
"Asian Pacific Americans are significantly under-represented in the judiciary," Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Grace Yoo said in a statement. "And this appointment is a step in the right direction."
Claremont McKenna College Political Professor Jack Pitney points out that within a year, California could boast women in its top four leadership positions, with a female chief justice, two female senators and a female governor if Meg Whitman wins in November.
"This is a sign that woman's equality has moved in the right direction," Pitney told CNN. "But it's also somewhat of a shoulder shrug for many California voters, the nomination of an Asian American woman. Perhaps that shows just how far we've come because decades back that nomination would be astonishing."
Santa Clara University Law Professor Gerald Ueleman also praised the chief justice nomination and called Cantil-Sakauye a moderate jurist with an excellent reputation.
"We have a majority of women in the California Supreme Court, it's exciting," Ueleman said in a phone interview with CNN. "I also am thrilled a person of Asian decent was nominated."
"It is important the court can reflect the diversity of the state of California."
The Republican received both law and undergraduate degrees from the University of California, Davis.
According to Cantil-Sakauye's bio in Sacramento Lawyer, her Filipina mother and Filipino/Portuguese father both did farm work and saved money to successfully educate the justice and her three siblings. The bio says that after graduation from law school, Cantil-Sakauye searched for a job and earned money by dealing blackjack in Reno, before getting her start in the Sacramento District Attorney's office.