The Supreme Court today announced it will hear nine cases on its early-May calendar. (May is the only month with two argument calendars.) There are a number of significant things about this upcoming session.

Nine arguments makes early-May the largest calendar of the 2023-2024 term thus far and goes a long way towards fulfilling Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero’s pledge to increase the court’s opinion output during the term’s second half. After the early-May arguments, the court will have issued opinions, or have opinions in the pipeline, in 42 cases with two later calendars still to be announced. The court still might not match last term’s 55 opinions, which was an historic low. (See here.)

There haven’t been this many arguments during one week since last year’s early-May calendar. Before that, you’d have to go back to June 2020.

Some of the cases to be argued are especially consequential, including the writ petition seeking to prevent the November ballot from including an initiative that would make it more difficult to enact new taxes, a death penalty appeal (or maybe two) with a California Racial Justice Act issue, and a PAGA case.

Three death penalty appeals will be argued. There have been only two capital appeals on the eight calendars already completed this term. In 2017, when it mostly upheld Proposition 66, which was designed to speed California executions, the court said that the initiative’s deadlines for court action on capital cases “must be deemed directive rather than mandatory,” but also that the deadlines are “properly construed as an exhortation to the parties and the courts to handle cases as expeditiously as is consistent with the fair and principled administration of justice.” (Briggs v. Brown (2017) 3 Cal.5th 808, 823, 859.) (Related: “High court hears more death penalty appeals after Proposition 66”.)

A number of the cases on the calendar have been on the court’s docket for a while.

On Wednesday and Thursday, May 8 and 9, in San Francisco, the court will hear the following cases (with the issue presented as summarized by court staff or limited by the court itself):

Legislature v. Weber: (1) Does the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act constitute an impermissible attempted revision of the California Constitution by voter initiative? (2) Is this initiative measure subject to invalidation on the ground that, if adopted, it would impair essential government functions? The court issued an order to show cause on the original writ petition in November 2023. More about the case here, here, here, and here.

Golden State Water Company v. Public Utilities Commission: The court’s issue summary says only, “The court issued a writ of review regarding notice and due process requirements in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission.” The writ of review issued in May 2022, but that was 11 months after the water company filed its petition for review. The case is consolidated with California-American Water Company v. Public Utilities Commission. More about the cases here.

Turrieta v. Lyft, Inc.: When the court granted review in January 2022, it limited the issue to: “Does a plaintiff in a representative action filed under the Private Attorneys General Act (Lab. Code, § 2698, et seq.) (PAGA) have the right to intervene, or object to, or move to vacate, a judgment in a related action that purports to settle the claims that plaintiff has brought on behalf of the State?” More about the case here. Horvitz & Levy is Lyft’s appellate counsel in the case.

Ramirez v. Charter Communications, Inc.: Did the Court of Appeal err in holding that a provision of an arbitration agreement allowing for recovery of interim attorney’s fees after a successful motion to compel arbitration, was so substantively unconscionable that it rendered the arbitration agreement unenforceable? The court granted review in June 2022. More about the case here.

People v. Arellano: When a defendant obtains resentencing of a conviction under Penal Code section 1172.6, subdivision (e), is the trial court permitted to impose not only the target offense or underlying felony, but also corresponding enhancements? The court granted review in March 2023. A response to amicus curiae briefs is not due until April 26. More about the case here.

People v. Lamb: This is an automatic direct appeal from an August 2008 judgment of death. The court’s website does not list issues for death penalty appeals. Counsel was appointed in March 2012. Briefing was completed in April 2016.

People v. Lynch: What prejudice standard applies on appeal when determining whether a case should be remanded for resentencing in light of newly-enacted Senate Bill No. 567 (Stats. 2021, ch. 731)? The court granted review in August 2022. More about the case here.

People v. Wilson: This is an automatic direct appeal from an August 2003 judgment of death. The court’s website does not list issues for death penalty appeals. However, the court in December asked for supplemental briefing on “What is the effect, if any, of the recent amendment to Penal Code section 745, subdivision (b) [part of the California Racial Justice Act (here and here)] on the issues in this case? (Stats. 2023, ch. 464, § 1.)” Last April, the court had said that the parties will have 15 additional minutes of argument time to address a defense motion for a stay of the appeal and a limited remand. We haven’t seen the motion, but it appears to concern the CRJA. (Related: see the discussion of the denial of review in People v. Lashon here.) Counsel was appointed in December 2007. Initial briefing was completed in January 2016.

People v. Frazier: This is an automatic direct appeal from a December 2006 judgment of death. The court’s website does not list issues for death penalty appeals. Counsel was appointed in November 2010. Initial briefing was completed in February 2017. As in Wilson (see above), there’s a pending defense motion for a stay of the appeal and a limited remand, which might concern the California Racial Justice Act. However, unlike in Wilson, the court hasn’t asked for supplemental briefing about a 2023 amendment of the CRJA.

The arguments will be live streamed. Opinions in the cases should file by August 5, but the Legislature v. Weber opinion is likely to issue before June 27 (see here).