The law reviews at Loyola and USC include new California Supreme Court scholarship.

Loyola devoted an entire issue to the Supreme Court.  (The issue has been out for a little while now, but I didn’t know about it until it was mentioned in a Bob Egelko San Francisco Chronicle article.)  It includes articles on six recent court opinions — In re Cook (see here), Southern California Gas Leak Cases (see here), Briggs v. Brown (see here); In re I.C. (see here); People v. Valenzuela (see here); and People v. Buza (see here).

The Loyola issue starts with a foreword by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.  She notes that four of the six decisions surveyed were produced by a divided court, but says that’s “somewhat misleading” because, “[m]uch more often than not, our decisions are unanimous.”  She then discusses in detail the decision-making process that regularly leads to agreement.

The Chief Justice writes:  “With the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints on the court, our frequent unanimity might come as a surprise to some observers.  A simplistic view would regard such consensus as unlikely given that three of us were appointed by Republican governors, and four by a Democratic successor.  But neither principles of law nor jurisprudential philosophies necessarily cleave along such lines.”

The Chief Justice suggests that “[a] more interesting, and potentially productive, inquiry would consider why the court so often reaches a consensus.”

Instead of the study the Chief Justice recommended, USC’s law review offers, “Partisan Voting on the California Supreme Court.”  It begins, “Voting by justices on the California Supreme Court is widely perceived as being on political and partisan lines, with Democratic justices taking liberal positions and Republican justices taking conservative positions across a wide gamut of issues.”  The article reports the results of a study “us[ing] a two-parameter item response theory (IRT) model to identify voting patterns in non-unanimous decisions by California Supreme Court justices from 1910 to 2011” and says that voting on the court “became polarized on political and partisan lines beginning in the mid-1900s.”  Cantil-Sakauye joined the court in 2011.


“California Supreme Court consistently unanimous, even in contentious cases”

The barely perceptible Brown-justices bloc

Justice Werdegar’s replacement might not affect case outcomes much