SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – California’s new chief justice said the decade or more it takes a typical death penalty appeal to make its way through California courts is too long and too expensive, but stopped short of saying how the process might be reformed.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Wednesday she is interviewing experts on the court about how cases are handled and promised some reform once she understood where improvements could be made.

“I am terribly concerned. But I also feel I owe it to everyone involved that before I start talking about changes, that I know and learn what the process is,” she said during her first extensive interview with reporters since being sworn in.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

Death row inmates typically cannot afford legal representation, so it can be years before an appellate lawyer that’s been properly trained to handle a death penalty appeals becomes available.

“Sure looks like a problem given the time frame, given the money,” she said.

“But I have to figure out whether or not how much of that is a reasonable period of time. I don’t know that yet.”

Cantil-Sakauye said she has a meeting scheduled Friday to talk with Gov. Jerry Brown about court budgets.

The question of whether the plaintiffs in a federal case challenging the Prop 8 same-sex marriage ban have a right to sue will likely be taken up by the justices in early February, she said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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