April 13, 2011

Pending motion to dismiss highlights stresses caused by recent changes on the California Supreme Court

The following post from our “exemplary” sister blog, California Punitive Damages, discusses a pending motion to dismiss review in a fully briefed case. The motion illustrates some of the pressures confronting the shorthanded Supreme Court in this period of rapid change.

Exxon Mobil has asked the California Supreme Court to dismiss review in Nelson v. Exxon Mobil, the case in which the Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs in certain cases can assign their claims for punitive damages. Exxon Mobil persuaded the Supreme Court to grant review in the first place, so Exxon Mobil’s motion to dismiss suggests that the parties have reached a settlement. (We’re just speculating here; we have no first-hand information about the reason for the motion).

The short-handed Supreme Court (which has only six justices following the retirement of Carlos Moreno) will probably be more than happy to grant the motion to dismiss. To reach a decision in this case, the Supreme Court would have needed to appoint four temporary justices: one to replace Justice Moreno, two to replace Justices Chin and Baxter who recused themselves from participation in this case when review was granted, and one to replace Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, who is disqualified from participation in this case because she wrote the Court of Appeal’s opinion when she was still a member of that court.

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