August 8, 2012

The United States and California Supreme Courts don’t grant review often, but still . . .

In general, the California Supreme Court grants review in only about three percent of the cases it’s asked to hear. The United States Supreme Court’s certiorari grant rate is no better. Yet a deputy city attorney in San Francisco made an unusually confident — and public — statement about the finality of an appeal he won. After the Court of Appeal affirmed a summary adjudication in a case alleging the discriminatory and retaliatory eviction of a neighborhood council’s recycling center, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted the victorious lawyer’s assessment of possible future proceedings: “The chances that the California Supreme Court is going to take this case is as close to zero as you can get. And the chances of the U.S. Supreme Court are way lower than that.”

It’s usually safe to bet against Supreme Court review, but doing so publicly certainly raises the stakes on the bet. In any event, we’ll soon see the accuracy of this prediction. Despite the deputy city attorney’s assessment, the appellant recently filed a petition for review that the court is likely to rule on by the end of next month.

One last question: we’re not experts in statistics and probability, but what kind of odds are “way lower” than “as close to zero as you can get”?

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