One of the most common grounds for Supreme Court review is when it’s necessary “to settle an important question of law.”  (Rule 8.500(b)(1).)  Important questions of law often frequently recur.

Thus, an after-the-fact indicator that the court has wisely agreed to hear a matter is when the case yields a number of subsequent grant-and-holds, meaning the later cases are back-burnered because they raise issues that are the same as or are related to the issues to be decided in the first review-granted case.  (See rule 8.512(d)(2); also here.)  Usually, but not always, the grant-and-holds will wait for a decision in the lead case and will then be returned to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration or with review having been dismissed.

By the grant-and-hold measure, a champion in the it’s-not-just-a-one-off-case category is People v. Lewis.  Since review was granted one year ago, by our count, the court has granted-and-held 208 cases for Lewis, adding as many as 13 new action-deferred matters at a single Wednesday conference.

Lewis involves a 2018 statute giving resentencing rights to some defendants convicted of felony murder or murder under a natural-and-probable-consequences theory.  The statute is part of Senate Bill No. 1437, which has made those convictions harder to get.

Besides being an exemplar case raising issues of statewide importance, Lewis also illustrates the significance of a six-year-old court policy change in criminal case grant-and-holds.  Previously, instead of granting review and deferring action in cases raising issues that were already before the court in other matters, the court would deny review, forcing the defendant to file a separate habeas corpus petition to take advantage of any favorable decision in the pending case.  Under the old system, there would probably be far fewer Lewis grant-and-holds.

There will almost certainly be a bunch more Lewis grant-and-holds in the future, but that could be ending relatively soon.  The court last week sent out an oral argument letter in Lewis, indicating a hearing could be only a few months away, with an opinion then to follow within 90 days.  After the decision, of course, the court will have to figure out the appropriate dispositions for Lewis‘s 200+ grant-and-holds.


The Supreme Court doesn’t decide all important issues

Supreme Court will hear another SB 1437 resentencing case