The Supreme Court announced today that it would hear only two arguments next month.  That continues a string of light calendars.  The SeptemberOctober, November, and December calendars had three, five, five, and three cases, respectively.

The small number of oral arguments might be due in part to Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar’s retirement at the end of October.  He did not sit on any arguments after September.  Vacancies hamper the court because, among other things, the court typically delays scheduling arguments in cases where the six permanent justices are tentatively evenly divided.

The court also might be saving space on its docket for any possible time-sensitive challenges to the decennial election maps just approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.  The state constitution gives the court “original and exclusive jurisdiction in all proceedings in which a certified final map is challenged or is claimed not to have taken timely effect.”  (Related:  here, here, and here.)

Like all calendars since April 2020, and for the foreseeable future, the January calendar will be remote and based in San Francisco.    (See herehereherehere, and here.)  The arguments will be live streamed, as all arguments have been since May 2016.

Because of the vacancy caused by Justice Cuéllar’s retirement, a Court of Appeal justice will be sitting on both of the January cases.  The pro tems have yet to be chosen and will be assigned on a mostly alphabetical basis.

On January 12, the court will hear the following cases (with the issue presented as summarized by court staff or, for January, limited by the court itself):

People v. Lopez:  The court limited the issue to:  “Did the trial court err by sentencing defendant to 15 years to life under the alternate penalty provision of the criminal street gang penalty statute (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (b)(4)(B)) for his conviction of conspiracy to commit home invasion robbery, even though conspiracy is not an offense listed in the penalty provision?”  The court granted review in July 2020.

People v. Bracamontes:  This is an automatic direct appeal from a December 2005 judgment of death.  The court’s website does not list issues for death penalty appeals.  Counsel was appointed in December 2010.  Briefing was completed in September 2019.

[Update:  Pro tems announced for January calendar.]