Steering Committee

Under the honorary leadership of California State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the Power of Democracy Steering Committee works together to improve civic awareness, learning and engagement in California. The committee includes representatives from all three levels of the California courts as well as state and local education organizations.


Justice of the Court of Appeals involved in civic education and public information Hon. Judith D. McConnell, Chair
Administrative Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District
Judicial officer of the Superior Court involved in civic education and public information Hon. Charles A. Smiley III
Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda
Federal court representative Hon. Frank C. Damrell, Jr. (Ret.)
State Supreme Court representative Ms. Alice V. Collins
Supervising Supreme Court Attorney, Supreme Court of California
State Superintendent of Public Instruction representative Mr. Jason Spencer
Principal Advisor to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education
California Bar Foundation representative Ms. Sonia Gonzales
Executive Director
California Bar Foundation
 Law school representative Dr. Stephen C. Ferruolo
Dean and Professor of Law
University of San Diego, School of Law
County Superintendent of Schools/representative of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) Mr. David W. Gordon
Superintendent of Schools
Sacramento County Office of Education
Civic education leader Dr. Michelle M. Herczog
Consultant, History-Social Science
Los Angeles County Office of Education
Student Representative Ms. Laura Robles
George Washington Carver High School
California Secretary of State, or his/her representative Hon. Alex Padilla
California Secretary of State


The Committee is organized to carry out recommendations made by the Commission for Impartial Courts’ final report, particularly recommendations 37(a) and (b) and 43(a)-(c) and (g) and to oversee all follow-up to the Civic Learning California Summit:  Making Democracy Work.

The Commission for Impartial Courts was charged with studying and providing recommendations to the Judicial Council, the policy making body of the judicial branch, on ways to strengthen our court system, increase public trust and confidence in the judiciary, and ensure judicial impartiality and accountability for the benefit of all Californians.

The Making Democracy Work: Civic Learning Summit was organized to bring attention to the need for civic engagement and literacy in California, including in K-12 schools, and featured Retired United State Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as the keynote speaker.  The Chief Justice continues to lead this effort, which you can learn more about here.

The Steering Committee is staffed by the Judicial Council Operations and Programs Division, and funding for the Power of Democracy Steering Committee’s civic learning initiatives is generously provided by a grant from the California Bar Foundation.