June 1, 2011

When not answering is not an option

When a party files a petition for review in the Supreme Court, an answer to the petition is normally optional. (See rule 8.500(e)(4) [specifying the time for filing “[a]ny answer to the petition” (emphasis added)].) Occasionally, however, the court takes away that option. At the beginning of the year, the court specifically requested an answer in one case. And it did so again last week.

In Goff v. Superior Court, the Court of Appeal summarily denied a writ petition that, according to Kate Moser in The Recorder, seeks to require a district attorney to run criminal checks on police officers who will be witnesses. The defendant petitioned for review and the Supreme Court told the Attorney General and/or the District Attorney that it’s expecting an answer to the petition, with “no requests for extension of time . . . contemplated.” What makes the court’s order particularly unusual is that it was issued the very day that the petition for review was filed.

2 Responses to “When not answering is not an option”

  1. In criminal matters, it is not uncommon for the California Supreme Court to order an answer to a petition for review from the Court of Appeal’s denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus. It is the practical equivalent of the California Supreme Court ordering an informal response to an original petition for writ of habeas corpus. It is not the type of answer one would file in a plenary review situation. Rather, the court is determining whether to issue an order to show cause returnable to a lower court. One key difference is that with an original petition, the court does not have the same time constraints to resolve the petition, unlike with a petition for review. This explains why the court is in a rush sometimes to issue the order for an answer to a petition for review, and why it contemplates no extensions from the respondent.

  2. The court requests such answers frequently where the Court of Appeal has summarily denied a writ petition. It is a means of ascertaining the views of the real party in interest, and, as Maury notes (supra), is the equivalent of requesting (not ordering) an informal response to an original petition.

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