September 22, 2010

The life of a petition for review in the California Supreme Court

For most attorneys, their primary interaction with the Court is to file (or answer) a petition for review. We therefore thought it would be useful to share what we understand to be the “life” of a petition in a civil case once it arrives at the Court.

When a petition is filed, it is scheduled to be considered at one of the Court’s weekly Wednesday conferences. The petition is then assigned to an attorney on the Court’s civil central staff to prepare a conference memorandum.

If a staff attorney recommends that the Court grant a petition or act affirmatively, he or she puts the case on the Court’s “A” list. As explained in the Court’s Internal Operating Procedures, “Cases assigned to the ‘A’ list include all those in which the recommendation is to grant or take affirmative action of some kind, e.g., ‘grant and transfer’ or ‘deny and depublish,’ in which a dissenting opinion has been filed in the Court of Appeal, or in which the author believes denial is appropriate, but that the case poses questions that deserve special attention.” On the other hand, if a petition is routine, does not present an important question or involves settled law, the staff attorney relegates it to the “B” list.

Two Tuesdays (eight days) before the conference at which a petition is scheduled to be considered, the conference memoranda are submitted to the Calendar Coordinator’s Office for copying and distribution to the justices and their staffs. In the week preceding the conference, the justices and their staffs review the packet for each petition, including the conference memo. They also hold individual chambers sessions to reach and discuss tentative conclusions.

In the Wednesday conference, the justices consider and discuss the “A” list petitions; staff attorneys do not participate in the conference. The justices will deny the “B” list petitions, following the memorandum recommendations, unless a justice asks that a case be put over to a subsequent conference for further study, the preparation of a supplemental memorandum, or both. A petition must be ruled upon within 60 days of filing, though the Court can extend the time to rule on its own motion by an additional 30 days. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.512(b).)

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