October 22, 2012
As we have mentioned, the Court recently issued its Workload Statistics report for the period September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2012. In contrast to the slight downward trend in productivity recently noted by Professor Gerald Uelmen for fiscal 2011-2012 (July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012), the Court’s productivity is starting to pick up. The report notes that, “[o]verall, the number of opinions issued by the court [from September to August] increased from 86 last court year to 97 in 2011-2012.” As the report suggests, this may be because Justice Goodwin Liu has now been on the bench a full year, and the Court thus was not required in this period to assign Court of Appeal justices to occupy the seat on the Court left vacant by retired Justice Carlos Moreno. In addition, some of the serious challenges the Chief Justice faced upon taking office in 2010 have now been addressed.
Another interesting fact noted in the report is that “the total number of petitions for review and filings in original proceedings decreased” in this 2011-2012. This might be due, as the report suggests, to the impact of staff furloughs and “substantial budget reductions” throughout the judicial branch, which “may be affecting the flow of cases through the system.”
The report is also noteworthy in pointing out that the Court’s opinions in civil cases decreased by eight from the previous year, to just 27 in 2011-2012. (This substantial decrease was not matched by a proportional decrease in the number of civil petitions for review, which dipped only slight to 1,173 from last year’s figure of 1,229.) By contrast, the number of opinions in capital cases held more or less steady at 27, while the number of opinions in noncapital criminal cases increased by a whopping 20 to a total of 43 in 2011-2012. As the report mentions, “noncapital matters . . . have been one of the fastest growing areas in the court’s workload over the past decade.”