The Supreme Court today announced it will hear four oral arguments in February. At the current rate, the court will issue only 38 or 39 opinions this 2023-2024 term, which will be the smallest number since . . . ever, we think. There were 55 opinions last term, and that was an historic low. (See here.) (Related: “What’s ailing the California Supreme Court? Its productivity has plummeted”.)
Here’s our math. First, because the court doesn’t hold oral arguments in July or August, and because all opinions in cases argued before July are usually filed before September (see the 90-day rule), we analyze the court’s output by term — from September 1 through the following August 31 — not calendar year. Second, through February, the court will have heard 21 arguments on six calendars, an average of 3.5 cases per calendar. There are five more scheduled oral argument sessions. (Atypically, there was one additional argument calendar last term.) Eleven argument calendars for the term times 3.5 is 38.5.
On Tuesday, February 6, in Sacramento (the first sitting in the State capital since February 2020 (see here)), the court will hear the following cases (with the issue presented as summarized by court staff or limited by the court itself; additional information about a case can be found at the link showing when the court agreed to hear the case):
Ruelas v. County of Alameda: In January 2023, the court agreed to answer this question posed by the Ninth Circuit — “Do non-convicted incarcerated individuals performing services in county jails for a for-profit company to supply meals within the county jails and related custody facilities have a claim for minimum wages and overtime under Section 1194 of the California Labor Code in the absence of any local ordinance prescribing or prohibiting the payment of wages for these individuals?”
People v. McDavid: Does the trial court have discretion to strike a firearm enhancement imposed pursuant to Penal Code section 12022.53 and instead impose a lesser uncharged firearm enhancement pursuant to a different statute (Pen. Code, § 12022.5)? The court granted review in September 2022.
People v. Flores: The court directed the parties to brief this issue: “Was defendant’s detention supported by reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity?” Flores made our recent list of the oldest cases on the court’s docket, but with an asterisk. The court initially granted-and-held, in April 2021. This past July, seven months after the lead case was decided (the decision in that case was more than two years after review had been granted), the court un-held Flores and directed briefing.
People v. Reynoza: Does Penal Code section 136.1, subdivision (b)(2), which prohibits dissuading or attempting to dissuade a victim or witness from causing a charging document “to be sought and prosecuted, and assisting in the prosecution thereof,” encompass attempts to dissuade a victim or witness after a charging document has been filed? The court granted review in May 2022.
The arguments will be live streamed. Opinions in the cases should file by May 6.