Early this month, the Legislature filed a writ petition — Legislature of the State of California v. Padilla — asking the Supreme Court to order a four-month delay of the deadline for the state Citizens Redistricting Commission to submit Congressional, state legislative, and Board of Equalization district maps for the 2022 election. Today the court indicated it was ready to do just that, and very soon.
The court issued a Palma notice, telling the parties it “may issue a peremptory writ in the first instance” to grant the requested relief. The notice, named after the court’s decision in Palma v. U.S. Industrial Fasteners, Inc. (1984) 36 Cal.3d 171, presages what the court has called an “accelerated procedure [that] dispenses with the issuance of an alternative writ, and with the requirement that the Court of Appeal afford an opportunity for formal briefing and oral argument before ordering that a peremptory writ issue.” (Brown, Winfield & Canzoneri, Inc. v. Superior Court (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1233, 1241.)
The court’s favorable response to the petition is unsurprising. The opposing party in the petition (California’s Secretary of State) and the Commission itself have both filed responses supporting the petition. (Here and here.) So did amici former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters of California. (Here.)
The Palma procedure is used “only when petitioner’s entitlement to relief is so obvious that no purpose could reasonably be served by plenary consideration of the issue — for example, when such entitlement is conceded or when there has been clear error under well-settled principles of law and undisputed facts — or when there is an unusual urgency requiring acceleration of the normal process.” (Ng v. Superior Court (1992) 4 Cal.4th 29, 35.) The court apparently believes that the Legislature’s petition checks the “conceded” and “unusual urgency” boxes.
Under today’s order, the Secretary of State and the Commission have one week to file “any oppositions” to the petition. Assuming nobody opposes, the court will likely very soon thereafter issue a decision — “in writing with reasons stated” — granting the requested relief. In fact, the drafting of that decision is probably already in the works.
It’s not every day that the Supreme Court issues a writ in the first instance. Very quick research indicates this might be only the third time ever, and the first stand-alone first-instance writ since the 1905 establishment of the Courts of Appeal, where writ petitions are most often filed. (See People v. Gonzalez (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1179, 1256 [writ petition consolidated with automatic death penalty appeal]; People ex rel. Mulford v. Turner (1850) 1 Cal. 143, 151.) The Courts of Appeal overuse the Palma procedure, but that’s for another blog post.