November 1, 2010

Retirement will likely be gradual for Chief Justice Ronald M. George

As mentioned in this post, we have been wondering whether retiring Chief Justice Ronald M. George’s name will appear on opinions in cases argued in November and December, but which are issued after he retires on January 2, 2011. So we did some snooping to see what has happened in the past when Supreme Court justices have retired. It appears the problem has been solved by having the retired justice stay on such cases by assignment pursuant to Article VI, section 6 (e) of the California Constitution, which provides, in part, that “[a] retired judge who consents may be assigned to any court” by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.

For example, Chief Justice George’s predecessor, Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas, who retired in April 1996, appears on decisions issued in June 1996 pursuant to appointment by the Acting Chairperson of the Judicial Council. The same thing has happened numerous times going back to 1989: Justice Armand Arabian, who retired in February 1996, appears on opinions issued as late as April of that year; Justice Edward A. Panelli, who retired in January 1994, appears on opinions issued in March 1994; Justice David N. Eagleson, who retired in January 1991, appears on opinions in January and February of that year; and Justice Marcus M. Kaufman, who retired in January 1990, appears on several opinions issued the following month; and finally Justice John A. Arguelles, who retired from the Court in March 1989, appears on opinions issued as late as April 27, 1989.

In the last twenty-one years, the only exceptions to this trend have been Justice Janice Rogers Brown (who stepped down from the Court when she was appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit) and Justice Stanley Mosk (who passed away while still serving on the Court). We’ll go way out on a limb and predict that in Chief Justice George’s case, he’ll be assigned by the Acting Chair of the Judicial Council to all the cases in which he heard argument but which were not decided by his retirement date, and that we will see his name on opinions issued as late as March 2011.

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