April 11, 2011

Does it matter that the California Supreme Court has extended the time in which to rule on your petition for review?

Rule 8.512 of the California Rules of Court concerns the procedures for the California Supreme Court to follow when ruling on a petition for review. No portion of the rule causes us to receive more questions than rule 8.512(b)(1), which provides: “The court may order review within 60 days after the last petition for review is filed. Before the 60-day period or any extension expires, the court may order one or more extensions to a date not later than 90 days after the last petition is filed.”

What the rule means is clear: on its own motion, the Court can extend the time to act on a petition for review by up to an additional 30 days beyond the standard 60-day period. But what prompts us to receive questions is not the language of the rule. Instead, the questions almost always concern whether it is significant that the Court has sua sponte extended the time to rule on a particular petition. Understandably, counsel and their clients, starved for information concerning what the Court might think of their petition, attempt to read the tea leaves and often think, “Aha! This shows the Court is taking a hard look at our case. Perhaps review will be granted.”

We hate to be the bearers of bad tidings, but that is not usually the case. The Court has a heavy case load and receives over 5,000 petitions for review each year. If the Court defers ruling on a petition, our experience suggests that in the typical case that merely indicates the Court has scheduled the petition to be acted upon at a weekly Wednesday conference that will occur after the initial 60-day period for ruling has expired. That said, as we have discussed here, there are ways to assess the relative likelihood of a petition for review being granted.

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