The consigliere to three chief justices is stepping down.
Beth Jay, who has served as principal attorney to California Chief Justices Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Ronald George and Malcolm Lucas and long been regarded as an influential behind-the-scenes player, will retire at the end of the year, the Supreme Court announced Friday.
"I will be forever grateful for her wise counsel and fidelity to the cause of justice," Sakauye said in a news release. "And, although I will miss her energy, passion, and feistiness, I wish my friend all the greatest in her well-deserved retirement."
A 1975 graduate of Stanford Law School who's worked at the court nearly 33 years, Jay said in the news release that she is leaving primarily to focus on some longstanding health challenges, and that she may return to the court in a few months in a part-time capacity "if the chief will have me and if I can be of service."
Jay worked in private practice and at the Ninth Circuit before joining California Supreme Court Justice Frank Richardson's staff in 1980. Richardson was succeeded by Lucas in 1984, and after becoming chief justice in 1987 he elevated Jay to principal attorney.
In that role Jay has worked regularly with the leadership of the Administrative Office of the Courts on policy, budget, legal affairs and legislative issues. Her duties also have included serving as the court's liaison to the Judicial Council, the Commission on Judicial Performance, State Bar, State Bar Court, Administrative Office of the Courts, the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, Office of the State Public Defender and California Appellate Project. She drafted speeches for the chief justices, helped them prepare for weekly case review conferences, and served on the search committees that hired William Vickrey and Steven Jahr as adminstrative directors of the California courts.
"I have had a ringside seat from which to watch California’s judicial branch mature and focus on the administration of justice and access to justice for all -- and to contribute to the development of a truly statewide judicial branch that can really make a difference in people’s lives," Jay said.
Lucas and George used the same word in the news release to describe Jay's contribution: "invaluable."
A spokesman for the court said there was no immediate word on who would succeed her.