How Often is the California Supreme Court Closely Divided in Death Penalty Appeals (Part 2)?

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Yesterday, we continued our examination of the Court’s voting patterns, dividing the Court’s unanimity rate among the automatic death penalty appeals and the criminal non-death cases, and asking how often in the death penalty and “everything else” dockets the Court’s decision was lopsided – meaning either unanimous or one dissenter.  Today, we turn our attention to the years 2008 through 2015.

For 2008, the type of criminal case had little impact on the chance the Court would be unanimous – 88.46% of the death penalty decisions were unanimous, 87.5% of the criminal non-death decisions were.  The following year, unanimity among death penalty appeals was flat at 88%, but it fell among non-death cases to 75%.  In 2010, 91.67% of death penalty decisions were unanimous, to only 75.51% of non-death cases.

In 2011, unanimity fell to its lowest level of the sixteen years on death penalty appeals at 73.08%.  Among non-death cases, 72% were unanimous decisions.  The following year, unanimity was back up to 92% on the death penalty side, but only 71.43% on the non-death side.

But in the most recent three years, the two measures have remained almost even.  In 2013, 83.33% of death penalty decisions were unanimous; 81.25% of non-death decisions were.  In 2014, exactly the same fraction – 83.33% – of death penalty decisions were unanimous, while 84.38% of non-death decisions were.  Last year, unanimity among death penalty cases had fallen to 76.47%, while 74.07% of non-death decisions were unanimous.

Table 94C

We conclude by looking at the lopsided rate.  Between 2008 and 2010, the rate of lopsided decisions in death penalty cases remained at very high levels: 92.31% in 2008, 92% in 2009, and 95.83% in 2010.  During those same years, the rate was similar in non-death cases for 2008 and 2009 – 90% and 91.67%, respectively – but fell to 77.55% in 2010.

In 2011, 88.46% of death penalty decisions were lopsided, to 72% of non-death decisions.  In 2012, all the death penalty decisions were lopsided.  Among non-death cases, 83.67% were.  For 2013, 83.33% of death penalty decisions were lopsided, while non-death was much higher – 93.75%.  Lopsidedness rose on the death penalty side in 2014 to 91.67%, but fell slightly among non-death cases to 87.5%.  Last year, 82.35% of the Court’s death penalty decisions had zero or one dissenter.  On the non-death side, 81.48% were lopsided decisions.

Table 95C

Join us back here next week as we start work on another area of analysis – the Court’s reversal rate, in civil and criminal cases, of each District (and for the First, Second and Fourth Districts, each Division), of the Court of Appeal.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ken Lund (no changes).

How Often is the California Supreme Court Closely Divided in Death Penalty Appeals (Part 1)?

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For the past few weeks, we’ve been looking further at the Court’s unanimity rate, dividing the Court’s docket into closely divided (2-3 dissenters) and lopsided decisions.  This week, we’ll take a closer look at the Court’s criminal docket, dividing the Court’s decisions into the automatic death penalty appeals and criminal non-death decisions – in other words, everything else.

In Table 92, we report the unanimity rate for death penalty appeals and criminal non-death appeals between 2000 and 2007.  For every year but one, we see that the Court was significantly more likely to reach a unanimous decision in a death penalty appeal than in the Court’s other criminal cases.  In 2000, the difference was exactly fifteen points – 80% unanimity in death penalty appeals, 65% in everything else.  In 2001, 90.91% of death penalty appeals were decided unanimously, but 80.85% of everything else was.  The following year, both numbers fell – 69.23% of death penalty appeals were decided unanimously to 62.5% of non-death appeals.  In 2003, unanimity was up to 84.21% on the death penalty side, while remaining flat on the non-death side – 62.79%.  In 2004, unanimity was up to 90.48% on death penalty appeals, with 72.55% of the rest of the docket unanimous.  The next year, unanimity was almost unchanged on the death docket at 88%, but for the following two years, unanimity in the non-death docket dropped sharply.  In 2005, only 57.14% of the Court’s criminal non-death cases were decided unanimously.  In 2006, 84.21% of the death penalty appeals were decided unanimously, but only 44.12% of the non-death cases were.  But by 2007, everything was back even – 82.61% of death penalty appeals were decided unanimously, and fully 86.84% of criminal non-death cases were unanimous decisions.

Table 92C

In Table 93 below, we report the lopsided rate for the same period (i.e., unanimous + 1 dissenter cases).  We see that for these years, is was routine for nine out of every ten death penalty appeals to be decided unanimously or with only one dissenter.  In 2000, 92.86% of the death penalty appeals were lopsided decided.  In 2001 and 2005, they all were.  In 2002, 92.31% were lopsided.  In 2003, the figure dropped to 89.47%, remaining flat the next year at 90.48%.  In 2006, the lopsided rate dropped to its lowest level of these eight years on the death penalty side, with only 84.21% of the Court’s death penalty appeals resulting in lopsided decisions.

The story was quite different among non-death criminal decisions.  Only 67.5% were lopsided in 2000.  In 2001, the figure rose to 85.11% lopsided decisions.  In 2002, just above three-quarters of the Court’s non-death criminal decisions were lopsided – 76.79%.  The rate increased further in the two years that followed, to 86.05% in 2003 and 92.16% in 2004, but dropped sharply in 2005 and 2006 (as one would expect, given the unanimity numbers above).  In 2005, 62.86% of the Court’s non-death criminal appeals were lopsided decisions.  The next year, 67.65% were.  But in 2007, 97.37% of the Court’s non-death criminal decisions were lopsided – even a slightly higher percentage that on the death penalty side.

Table 93C

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s death penalty decisions for the years 2008 through 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ken Lund (no changes).

How Often is the California Supreme Court Closely Divided in Criminal Cases (Part 2)?

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Yesterday, we addressed trends in the California Supreme Court’s special concurrences in civil cases between 2000 and 2015.  Today, we turn to the Court’s special concurrences in criminal cases for the same years.

Between 2000 and 2007, the Court’s unanimity rate was typically between sixty and seventy percent.  The unanimity rate was up sharply in the eight years that followed.  In 2008, 87.88% of the Court’s criminal decisions were unanimous.  In 2009, 80.33% were unanimous, and the following year, 80.82% were.  In 2011, 72.55% of the Court’s criminal decisions were unanimous.  The following year, 79.22% were unanimous.  In 2013, the unanimity rate was up only slightly; 82% of the Court’s decisions were unanimous.  The following year, the unanimity rate was 83.93%.  In 2015, three-quarters of the Court’s decisions were unanimous.

We turn next to the Court’s lopsided rate – the percentage of the Court’s criminal decisions with zero or one dissenter.  Between 2000 and 2007, the Court decided between three quarters and eighty-five percent of its cases lopsidedly.  In 2008, 90.91% of the Court’s decisions were lopsided.  The following year, 91.8% of the Court’s decisions were lopsided.  The lopsided rate was between eighty and ninety percent for the three years between 2010 and 2012 – 83.56% in 2010, 80.39% in 2011 and 89.61% in 2012.  In 2013, 90% of the Court’s criminal decisions were unanimous.  In 2014, 89.29% were.  In 2015, the lopsided rate dropped somewhat, with 81.82% of the Court’s criminal cases having zero or one dissenter.

Table 91A

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to the Court’s dissents.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jeff Turner (no changes).

 

 

How Often is the California Supreme Court Closely Divided in Civil Cases (Part 2)?

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Last week, we began analyzing how often the California Supreme Court is closely divided in civil and criminal cases with a look at the years 2000 through 2007.  This week, we’ll address the years 2008 through 2015.

Between 2000 and 2006, the California Supreme Court typically decided between sixty and seventy percent of its cases unanimously.  Beginning in 2008, the unanimity rate rose substantially.  In 2008, 77.5% of the Court’s civil cases were decided unanimously.  In 2009, 84.09% of the civil cases were. In the four years following – 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 – the Court decided between seventy and eighty percent of its cases unanimously every year: 78.57%, 75.76%, 73.08% and 78.13%, respectively.  In 2014, the unanimity rate fell to 69.57%, but the following year, unanimity was sharply up, with 87.5% of the Court’s civil cases being decided unanimously.

The rate of lopsided decisions – civil cases with one dissenter or unanimously – rose from 2008 to 2015 too.  The rate shifted back and forth for several years – 82.5% in 2008 to 93.18% in 2009; to 85.71% in 2010 and 93.94% in 2011; to 88.46% in 2012 and 87.5% in 2013.  In 2014, the lopsided rate reached its lowest level of this second eight years at 78.26% (the lopsided rate was lower than that in five of the eight years before 2000 and 2007).  In 2015, the lopsided rate reached its second highest rate of the sixteen-year period, with only two of the Court’s thirty-two civil cases ending with two or three dissenters.

Table 90

Join us here tomorrow as we review the rate of unanimous and lopsided criminal decisions on the Court between 2008 and 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jim G (no changes).

How Often Is the California Supreme Court Closely Divided in Criminal Decisions (Part I)?

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Yesterday, we began our analysis of how often the California Supreme Court is closely divided with a look at the civil docket between 2000 and 2007.  Today, we turn to the criminal docket for the same years.

For most of the period, the Court’s unanimity rate in criminal cases was anywhere from fifteen to twenty points higher than it was on the civil side. Even in 2000, when the Court decided less than half its civil cases unanimously, 69.09% of the Court’s criminal decisions were unanimous.  The following year, unanimity was up to 82.76%, before returning to the same level, at 63.77% in 2002 and 69.35% the following year.  In 2004, the Court decided 77.78% of its criminal cases unanimously.  Unanimity dropped in the two years that followed, to 70% in 2005 and only 58.49% in 2006, but rose to 85.25% of the Court’s criminal decisions in 2007.

Just as the Court was generally more united in civil cases, the lopsided decision rate tended to be somewhat higher on the criminal side during these years than it was on the civil docket.  Although the numbers were nearly equal in 2000, with 72.73% of the criminal decisions having zero or one dissenter, to 71.43% of civil decisions, 87.93% of the Court’s criminal decisions were lopsided in 2001.  The Court handed down fourteen criminal decisions with two or three dissenters in 2002, but with a slightly heavier caseload, that amounted to only 79.71% lopsided.  The next two years, the lopsided rate increased, first to 87.1% in 2003 and then to 91.67% in 2004.  In 2005 and 2006, the Court decided thirteen and fourteen two or three dissenter criminal cases respectively, for a lopsided rate of 78.33% and 73.08%.  But in 2007, the Court decided only two criminal decisions with two or three dissenters, bringing the lopsided rate to its largest number of the period – 96.72%.

 

Table 89

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn to the unanimity and lopsided rates for the years 2008 through 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by StrangeVisitor (no changes).

 

 

How Often is the California Supreme Court Closely Divided in Civil Decisions (Part I)?

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Last week, we asked how often the California Supreme Court reviews unpublished decisions on both the civil and criminal dockets.  Today, we move to two new questions: how often are the Court’s decisions unanimous, and how often is the Court closely divided?

In Table 88, we report the share of the Court’s civil decisions which were unanimous and lopsided (which we define as cases involving zero or one dissenter).  The Court began the period with a quite low unanimity rate, agreeing on only 24 civil cases, or 48.98% of its civil docket in 2000.  The unanimity rate increased for each of the following five years, to 56.25% in 2001, 60.42% in 2002, 61.36% in 2003, 63.46% in 2004 and 78% in 2005.  Unanimity dropped slightly in 2006 to 73.58% – although the Court handed down thirty-nine unanimous civil decisions in both 2005 and 2006 – and more sharply in 2007 to 60%.

In 2000, the Court decided 14 civil cases with either two or three dissenters, for a “lopsided rate” of 71.43%.  The following year, the Court decided one more closely divided case, and accordingly, the lopsided rate dropped slightly, to 68.75%.  In 2002, division was down as the Court decided only nine cases with two or three dissenters.  As a result, the lopsided rate was 81.25%.  The following year, division was up slightly, and the rate dropped to 72.73%.  The lopsided rate rose to 78.85% in 2004.  In 2005, the Court had only seven closely divided civil decisions, and accordingly, the lopsided rate was 86%.  The next year, with a slightly increased caseload and the same number of closely divided cases, the lopsided rate increased just a bit to 86.79%.  Finally, in 2007, the Court decided sixteen closely divided civil cases, and the lopsided rate dropped to 70.91%.

Table 88

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the data for the criminal docket between 2000 and 2007.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Matt Biddulph (no changes).

How Often Does the California Supreme Court Review Unpublished Criminal Decisions?

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Yesterday, we began our analysis of a new question: how much of the California Supreme Court’s civil and criminal dockets arises from unpublished Court of Appeal decisions?  Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal docket (omitting the automatic death penalty appeals).

Unpublished decisions are significantly more common on the criminal docket than they have been on the civil docket.  For the entire sixteen years, 52.13% of non-unanimous criminal decisions arose from unpublished decisions of the Court of Appeal.  The unpublished share of unanimous decisions was even greater – 60.16%.

As our period of study begins in 2000, 35.29% of the Court’s non-unanimous criminal decisions arose from unpublished decisions below, while 55.26% of the unanimous ones did.  In 2001 and 2003-2005, the share of unanimous decisions which arose from unpublished Court of Appeal decisions was over sixty every year – 62.5, 62.79, 66.07 and 63.41.  For the years 2003-2005, the share of unpubs among non-unanimous decisions was around fifteen points lower each year – 47.37% in 2003, 37.5% in 2004 and 47.37% the following year.

In 2006, unpubs among unanimous criminal decisions reached their highest level of the entire period, accounting for 70.97% of the Court’s decisions.  That same year, 54.55% of the non-unanimous criminal decisions were unpublished below.  The share among unanimous decisions dropped about fifteen points for the two years that followed, but in 2008, three-quarters of the non-unanimous criminal decisions were unpubs.  In 2011, the unpublished share of both sides of the criminal docket topped 70% – 71.43% for non-unanimous decisions, 70.27% for unanimous ones.  The share for unanimous decisions settled back into the high 50s and low 60s for the next few years, but in 2013, two-thirds of the Court’s non-unanimous criminal decisions came from unpublished Court of Appeal decisions.  The following year, the share among non-unanimous decisions reached its highest level of the period – 77.78% arose from unpublished Court of Appeal decisions.  For 2015, the share among unanimous decisions was only slightly down at 54.54%, but the share among non-unanimous decisions fell sharply, down to 45.45%.

Table 87

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn to another topic – how much of the Court’s civil, criminal and death penalty decisions are unanimous?

Image courtesy of Flickr by Joe Wolf (no changes).

How Often Does the California Supreme Court Review Unpublished Civil Decisions?

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Last week, we analyzed the conventional wisdom that the California Supreme Court doesn’t review unanimous decisions from the Court of Appeal.  This week, we review a related question.  The conventional wisdom is that the Court doesn’t review unpublished decisions – but is it true?

We report the data for civil cases in Table 86 below, divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions.  We see that in fact, it is not at all uncommon for the Court to review unpublished decisions.  Between 2000 and 2013, unpublished Court of Appeal decisions never amounted to less than 11% of the Court’s docket, and they were generally significantly more.  In 2000, 44% of the Court’s non-unanimous decisions arose from unpublished decisions below to 29.17% of the unanimous decisions.  The share fell significantly among non-unanimous decisions the next year to 23.81%, but it jumped eight points on the unanimous side – 37.04%.  In 2002, only 20.69% of unanimously decided cases arose from unpublished decisions, but the fraction on non-unanimous cases was back up again, to 42.11%.  By 2004, fully 52.63% of the non-unanimous civil decisions arose from unpublished Court of Appeal decisions, and just short of a quarter of the unanimous decisions (24.24%) did.

The numbers dipped somewhat between 2006 and 2009, with 14.29%, 27.27%, 11.11% and 28.57% of the non-unanimous decisions arising from unpubs, and 27.5%, 18.18%, 12.9% and 18.92% of the unanimous decisions being unpublished below.  But in 2010, exactly one-third of the Court’s non-unanimous civil decisions were unpublished below, and 27.27% of the Court’s unanimous decisions were.  The numbers were almost identical in 2011, and the share of non-unanimous decisions spiked in 2013 – 57.14% of the Court’s non-unanimous civil decisions arose from unpublished cases, while 24% of the unanimous ones did.  The following year, the unpublished share of non-unanimous cases dropped to zero (the share of unanimous decisions remained flat at 25%).  Last year, unpublished decisions rebounded to about one-quarter of the Court’s non-unanimous decisions.  Among the unanimous decisions, 10.71% were unpublished below.

Table 86

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the share of unpublished Court of Appeal decisions on the California Supreme Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Naotake Murayama (no changes).

How Much Does a Dissent at the Court of Appeal Matter for Getting Supreme Court Review in a Criminal Case?

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Yesterday, we analyzed whether there is a consistent, predictable relationship between dissent at the Court of Appeal and the result in civil cases at the California Supreme Court. Today, we turn our attention to the criminal docket.

The data is reported in Table 85 below. Interestingly, although the notion that a dissent at the Court of Appeal is crucial to getting review once again turns out to be wrong, there is a somewhat more stable relationship between the non-unanimous and unanimous decisions in terms of dissents below. Dissents were more than three times more common among non-unanimous criminal decisions in 2000 than they were among unanimous ones; 35.71% of non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but only 11.54% of unanimous ones did. The following year, the relationship between the two halves of the docket flipped, but in 2002, the numbers were quite similar: one-third of non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below, 14.29% of unanimous ones did. Dissents increased as a fraction of unanimous decisions in 2004, as 30.77% of non-unanimous decisions had dissenters below to 24.32% of unanimous decisions. In 2005, one-quarter of non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but none of the unanimous decisions did. The following year, non-unanimous decisions were down to 15.79% with a dissent below, and only 6.67% of unanimous decisions had a dissent.

In 2008 and 2009, dissents below were far more common in non-unanimous decisions than among the unanimous ones. In 2008, 60% of all non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below, to only 20% among the unanimous decisions. In 2009, one-third of all non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but only 3.57% of unanimous ones did.

For the rest of the period, the relationship between dissents in the Court’s criminal docket was less stable. In 2010, 8.33% of non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below to 13.51% of unanimous decisions. The following year, the figures were 42.86% and 22.22%. In 2012, the halves of the docket switched sides again – 7.14% of the Court’s non-unanimous criminal decisions had a dissent below to 15.79% of the unanimous ones.

In the past three years, dissents below have been concentrated among the Court’s unanimous decisions. In 2013, 23.08% of unanimous decisions had a dissent below. The next year, 14.81% did. In each of those years, none of the non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below. Most recently, in 2015, none of the Court’s decisions, either on the non-unanimous or unanimous side, had a dissent below.

Table 85

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn to a new subject in our ongoing analysis.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Marc Cooper (no changes).

How Much Does a Dissent at the Court of Appeal Matter for Getting Supreme Court Review in a Civil Case?

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This week, we’re looking at a new topic in our continuing analysis of the California Supreme Court’s decision making since 2000: how high a fraction of the Court’s civil docket involved a dissent at the Court of Appeal, and what predictive value does a dissent at the Court of Appeal have for the result at the Supreme Court? The conventional wisdom is that a dissent at the Court of Appeal is an essential prerequisite of getting Supreme Court review. Additionally, one might expect that more non-unanimous decisions than unanimous ones at the Supreme Court would involve a dissent below, since presumably disagreement at the intermediate level would suggest a likelihood of dissent at the Supreme Court.

We report the data for the civil docket in Table 84 below. The data reflects that unanimity at the Court of Appeal is far from a disqualifier for getting Supreme Court review; nor is there a consistent relationship between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions as to dissent below. In 2000, 24% of non-unanimous decisions had dissents below to only 12.5% for unanimous decisions. The following year, dissent was fairly flat among non-unanimous decisions at 23.81%, but only 3.7% of the unanimous decisions involved a dissent below. But between 2002 and 2005, dissent below was fairly uncommon in the Court’s cases. In 2002, only 3.44% of the Court’s unanimous decisions involved a dissent, and none of the non-unanimous decisions did. The following year, 11.76% of the non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below, while none of the non-unanimous decisions did. In 2005, 10.26% of non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below, but none of the unanimous decisions did.

Dissent below became relatively common among the Court’s non-unanimous decisions between 2006 and 2012 (with the exception of 2009). In 2006, 35.71% of the Court’s non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below. Just slightly more than twenty percent of the Court’s non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below in 2007, 2008 and 2010. During the following two years, dissent below reached its highest level among the Court’s non-unanimous decisions – 37.5% in 2011 and 42.86% in 2012.

Dissent below didn’t stay at any consistent level among the Court’s unanimous decisions for the years 2006 through 2012. Only 7.69% of the cases involved dissents below in 2006. Dissents bounced around as a fraction of the unanimous decisions between 2007 and 2012: 12.12%, 22.58%, 10.81%, 3.03%, 24% and 15.79%, respectively.

The chart reflects that dissents below have been sharply down as a percentage of both sides of the civil docket in the past three years. None of the Court’s non-unanimous civil decisions involved a dissent below in 2013 or 2015. In 2014, only 14.29% of the non-unanimous decisions did. Dissents below were equally insignificant as a fraction of the unanimous decisions – 8% in 2013, 13.33% in 2014 and only 3.57% last year.

Table 84

Join us back here tomorrow as we look at the importance of dissent at the Court of Appeal in the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Prayitno (no changes).

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