February 1, 2012

Judicial Council issues its 2011 Court Statistics Report

The Judicial Council recently issued its Court Statistics Report for 2011, which includes data through fiscal year 2009-2010 (July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010). As we discussed in our post about last year’s edition, these reports provide all sorts of interesting data regarding the California judiciary and statewide caseload trends. Here are some of the highlights regarding the Supreme Court:

In fiscal 2009-2010, the Court disposed of 9,439 cases, down only slightly from 9,513 the year before. These dispositions include petitions for review, original proceedings and State Bar matters. This works out to an average of nearly 26 dispositions per day.

As it does every year, the report underscores how rarely the Court grants review. In fiscal 2009-2010, the Court ruled on 5,141 petitions and granted 173 of them, including grant-and-holds and grant-and-transfers. This works out to an overall grant rate of 3.36 percent. While that may be depressing news for petitioners, it is more in keeping with the Court’s usual practice and is a significant increase from the previous year’s rate of just 2 percent, which was the lowest of any year going back to fiscal year 1988-1989.

The report also shows a significant increase in the rate of outright grants of review (excluding grant-and-holds and grant-and-transfers). The Court granted review outright in 86 cases, or 1.67 percent of all petitions filed. That may sound paltry, but the previous year it granted outright review in only 39 cases, less than 0.8 percent of all petitions filed. That was an all-time low (going back to at least 1988-1989). So the chances of outright review being granted did increase significantly in fiscal 2009-2010. And while 86 outright grants of review is not high compared to some years, it is within the range for previous years going back to 2001-2002.

As was true the year before, the chances of outright review being granted are better in a civil case than a criminal case. The Court granted outright review in 45 civil cases (out of a total of 1,244 petitions filed) and 41 criminal cases (out of 3,897 petitions filed). Thus, the Court granted outright review in 3.6 percent of civil cases but only about 1 percent of criminal cases.

The number of written opinions issued by the Court has continued to slip. As we noted in our post about last year’s report, the Court issued 116 opinions in fiscal 2008-2009, but only 96 opinions in fiscal 2009-2010. And the most recent data indicates that number has continued to decrease; as discussed here, the Court’s Annual Workload Statistics for 2010-2011 reveal it issued just 86 opinions between September 1, 2010 and August 31, 2011 (however, it should be noted the Annual Workload Stats do not examine fiscal years, so the comparison is somewhat imprecise).

Another interesting point is that, despite strenuous efforts, the Court continues to barely tread water with its heavy docket of automatic death penalty cases. In fiscal 2009-2010, it disposed of 26 automatic death penalty appeals, but 29 new ones were filed. This is more or less the same story as the previous year, when the Court disposed of 25 automatic appeals but with 24 new appeals filed. Perhaps it is this inescapable fact that has prompted the Chief Justice to question the efficacy of the death penalty in California and to call for its re-examination, as we noted here.

Finally, as previously mentioned, the Court ordered just four Court of Appeal opinions depublished in fiscal 2009-2010. This is an all-time low, going back to 1991. And, indeed, in the early ‘90’s, the Court depublished more than 100 opinions per year. The number of depublication orders increased to 12 between September 1, 2010 and August 31, 2011, but that is entirely in keeping with the Court’s conservative use of its depublication power in recent years.

Leave a Reply