The Supreme Court today declined to answer questions of California law posed by the Ninth Circuit that the federal appeals court said are at the heart of an appeal involving a sexual assault of an Uber passenger by a former Uber driver posing as a still-authorized driver. Justice Joshua Groban recorded a vote to hear the case, Doe v. Uber Technologies.

The district court in the case granted summary judgment for Uber based on the Second District, Division One, Court of Appeal opinion in the factually similar Jane Doe No. 1 v. Uber Technologies, Inc. (2022) 79 Cal.App.5th 410 matter, in which the Supreme Court denied a petition for review and four depublication requests. The Ninth Circuit said the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc. (2023) 14 Cal.5th 993 (see here) — which also came from the Ninth Circuit — “calls into question whether the court would decide the issue presented in Jane Doe No. 1 similarly.” Today’s denial suggests the Supreme Court is fine with the way Jane Doe No. 1 was decided. (See here.)

The Supreme Court has now turned down two of the last three Ninth Circuit rule 8.548 requests. In the long run, however, the court has been extremely accommodating, having granted 21 of the last 24 requests, dating back to July 2018.  Before the other recent rejection, in August 2023, the lone denial over the past five years had been in October 2019.

Not only was the denial rare, it also took an unusually long time for a ruling. It’s been 92 days since the Ninth Circuit made its request. There’s no deadline for the Supreme Court to decide whether it will answer a question from another jurisdiction, but the court almost always rules well within the maximum 90-day period that applies to petitions for review. I believe this is the 55th request since August 2010 and in that time there have been only six rulings — including today’s — that have taken longer than 75 days. Even so, 92 days isn’t even close to a record. There have been waits for rulings of 189 and 140 days. (See here.)


Rule 8.548

Asked and answered:  California Supreme Court responses to Ninth Circuit questions

The constitutionality of the Supreme Court answering the Ninth Circuit’s legal questions

Ask not what the Supreme Court can do for the Ninth Circuit

Justice Kruger and Judge Owens talk about the Supreme Court answering Ninth Circuit questions

The shadow docket . . . of California’s Supreme Court, part 2