Does Dissent at the Court of Appeal Predict Division in Criminal Cases at the Supreme Court?

Yesterday, we looked at the year-by-year data on the civil side, asking whether the presence of a dissent at the Court of Appeal level is reliably correlated with one or more dissenters at the Supreme Court level.  Today, we’re turning our attention to the criminal side of the docket.

In Table 418, we compare the number of unanimous criminal decisions with a dissent below to the number of non-unanimous divided decisions.  Once again, there’s no clear, consistent relationship between dissent at the Court of Appeal and dissent at the Supreme Court.  For thirteen years, more unanimous criminal decisions had dissents below; in ten years, more non-unanimous decisions did.

In Table 419, we report the percentage share of unanimous and non-unanimous criminal decisions which had a dissent below.  Once again, dissent at the Court of Appeal level does not appear to be a reliable predictor of dissent at the Supreme Court.  In 1994, none of the Court’s unanimous criminal decisions involved a dissent below; 4% of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 1995, 10.34% of the unanimous decisions were divided below and none of the non-unanimous decisions were.  In 1996, 3.85% of the unanimous decisions were divided below, but 12.5% of the non-unanimous decisions were.

For 1997, 12.5% of the Court’s unanimous criminal decisions had a dissent below, but none of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 1998, the relationship flipped – 8% of the unanimous cases, 15% of the non-unanimous ones.  That relationship held steady for the two years following.  In 1999, 3.57% of the unanimous decisions and 15% of the non-unanimous ones were divided below, and in 2000, 7.89% of the unanimous decisions and 29.42% of the non-unanimous cases had dissents below.  In 2001, 8.33% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but none of the non-unanimous decisions did.

For the years 2002 through 2006, the relationship held steady – divided decisions were a larger portion of the non-unanimous cases than of the unanimous cases.  In 2002, 10.87% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent, but 28% of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2003, 4.65% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent and 15% of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2004, 15.79% of the unanimous cases had a dissent below, but one quarter of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2005, none of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but 22.22% of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 2006, 3.23% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but 13.64% of the non-unanimous decisions did.

In 2007, 19.23% of the Court’s unanimous criminal decisions had a dissent below; none of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2008, the numbers were 12.07% for unanimous decisions, 37.5% for non-unanimous decisions.  In 2009, 2.04% of unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but one quarter of non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2010, 8.47% of the unanimous criminal decisions were divided below, but 7.14% of the non-unanimous cases were.  In 2011, 10.81% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but 21.43% of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 2012, 9.68% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but only 6.67% of the non-unanimous cases did.

Curiously, the Court hasn’t had a non-unanimous criminal decision which featured a dissent at the Court of Appeal since 2012.  In 2013, 14.63% of the unanimous criminal decisions had a dissent below.  At 2014, 6.52% of the unanimous decisions did.  In 2015, no criminal decision, either unanimous or non-unanimous, involved a Court of Appeal dissent.  In 2016, 6.25% of the unanimous criminal decisions had a dissent, and last year, 10.71% did.

Join us back here next Thursday as we continue looking at the Court’s experience with dissent at the Court of Appeal level.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Sheila Sund (no changes).

Does Dissent at the Court of Appeal Predict Division in Civil Cases at the Supreme Court?

Last time, we tested the often-heard view that a case which didn’t have a dissenter at the Court of Appeal has no chance of getting Supreme Court review.  This week, we’re testing a different correlation for dissent below – does it help predict dissent at the Supreme Court?  One would think the answer might be yes – surely a case which divided a three-Justice panel has a reasonable chance of dividing the seven Justices of the Supreme Court.

In Table 416, we plot the yearly data for (1) divided cases from the Court of Appeal which were decided unanimously at the Supreme Court; and (2) divided cases which were decided unanimously.  We see no persistent trend in the data.  In fourteen years of the twenty-four year period, more unanimously decided cases had dissenters below.  In nine years, more non-unanimous cases were divided at the Court of Appeal.  The difference is never substantial – in no single year were ten or more divided cases from the Court of Appeal decided either unanimously or non-unanimously.

In Table 417, we plot the divided unanimous and non-unanimous cases as a percentage of the total (i.e., “one-third of the civil cases decided unanimously had a dissenter at the Court of Appeal”).  Reviewed this way, the picture flips from the absolute numbers – a larger share of the unanimous decisions had a dissenter below in only nine of the twenty-four years.  In 1994, 34.78% of unanimous civil cases had a dissenter below to only 17.86% of non-unanimous decisions.  In 1995, 22.22% of unanimous decisions and 16.67% of non-unanimous ones were divided below.

In 1996, 11.76% of unanimous civil cases were divided below to 23.08% of non-unanimous decisions.  The following year, no unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, while 15.63% of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 1998, 12% of the unanimous civil decisions had a dissenter below to only 3.45% of non-unanimous decisions.  In 1999, the relationship flipped again – 3.57% of unanimous decisions were divided below, while one-quarter of non-unanimous ones were.  In 2000, 12.5% of unanimous decisions had a dissent below, while 24% of non-unanimous ones did.  The following year, only 3.7% of unanimous decisions drew a dissent below; 23.81% of non-unanimous ones did.

In 2002, the Court only decided a very small number of cases with a dissent below.  Only 3.45% of unanimous decisions were divided below, and none of the non-unanimous ones were.  In 2003, none of the unanimous decisions were divided below, but 11.76% of the non-unanimous decisions were.  In 2004, the numbers were almost identical – 12.12% of unanimous decisions, 15% of non-unanimous ones.  In 2005, 12.5% of unanimous decisions were divided below, but none of the non-unanimous decisions were.

In 2006, the relationship flipped again – 7.69% of unanimous decisions were divided below, while 35.71% of non-unanimous ones were.  In 2007, 11.76% of unanimous decisions and 22.73% of non-unanimous ones were divided below.  In 2008, the numbers were almost identical – 22.58% of unanimous decisions, 22.22% of non-unanimous ones.  In 2009, 10.81% of the unanimous civil decisions were divided below, but none of the non-unanimous ones were.  In 2010, 3.03% of unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, while 22.22% of non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2011, 24% of unanimous decisions and 37.5% of non-unanimous decisions had a dissenter below.  In 2012, 15.79% of unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, but 42.86% of non-unanimous ones did.  In 2013, 8% of unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, while none of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2014, 12.5% of unanimous decisions and 14.29% of non-unanimous decisions had a dissenter below.

In 2015, dissents at the Court of Appeal were once again quite rare on the civil docket – only 3.57% of unanimous decisions had a dissent below, and none of the non-unanimous ones did.  But that turned out to be a one-year did.  In 2016, 16.67% of the unanimous civil decisions and one-quarter of the non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below.  Last year, 18.75% of the unanimous decisions and 20% of the non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below.

Table 417 illustrates our somewhat surprising result – at least on the civil side of the docket, dissent at the Court of Appeal level does not appear to be reliably correlated with dissent at the Supreme Court.

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Don Graham (no changes).

Are Most of the Court’s Criminal Cases Divided Decisions at the Court of Appeal?

In our last post, we reviewed the accuracy of the often-heard suggestion that the Supreme Court only hears cases which drew a dissent at the Court of Appeal.  We discovered that with only a few exceptions, in the typical year only ten to twenty percent of the Court’s civil cases involved a dissent at the Court of Appeal.  So what about the criminal docket?

In Table 414, we report the yearly total cases in the criminal, quasi-criminal and disciplinary docket which involved a dissent at the Court of Appeal.  Only one criminal case decided in 1994 involved a dissent below.  Three per year did in 1995, 1996 and 1997.  In 1998, the Court decided five criminal cases which were non-unanimous below.  In 1999, the Court decided four.  The following year, the Court decided eight non-unanimous criminal cases, but decided only four in 2001.

In 2002, the Court decided twelve criminal cases involving dissents below.  The Court decided five such cases in 2003, but thirteen in 2004.  The Court decided four non-unanimous cases in 2005 and 2006, ten per year in 2007 and 2008, and four again in 2009.  The Court decided six non-unanimous criminal cases in 2010, seven per year in 2011 and 2012, and six in 2013.  The Court decided three non-unanimous cases per year in 2014, 2016 and 2017, but none at all in 2015.

Turning to Table 415, we report the data as a percentage of the total criminal caseload.  What we see here is that non-unanimous decisions are an even less important factor in the criminal docket than they were on the civil side.  In 1994, only 2.44% of the criminal docket involved a dissent below.  In 1995, that figure rose to 6.12%.  In 1996, 7.14% of the criminal cases were non-unanimous decisions below.  In 1997, 6.82% were.

In 1998, 11.11% of the Court’s criminal docket involved dissents below.  In 1999, 8.33% did, and in 2000, that figure rose to 14.55%.  For the following year, the percentage of non-unanimous decisions moved around a fairly narrow band: 6.9% in 2001, 16.9% in 2002, 7.94% in 2003, 17.81% in 2004, 6.56% in 2005, 7.55% in 2006, 16.39% in 2007 and 15.15% in 2008.

Non-unanimous cases fell to 6.56% of the criminal docket in 2009 and 8.22% in 2010.  After a brief spike to 13.73% in 2011, 9.09% in 2012 and 12% in 2013, the level of non-unanimous cases returned to its average level: 5.45% in 2014, 5.77% in 2016 and 7.14% in 2017 (there were no non-unanimous criminal cases in 2015).

Does a dissent help in getting a petition for review to stand out from the crowd?  Of course.  But the data shows that it’s simply not true, either on the civil or criminal side, that the Supreme Court seldom reviews unanimous Court of Appeal decisions.  In most years, the Court reviews far more unanimous decisions than not.

Join us back here next Thursday as we continue our analysis.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Bookis Smuin (no changes).

Are Most of the Court’s Civil Cases Divided Decisions at the Court of Appeal?

One of the enduring bits of conventional wisdom that one often hears about California appellate law is that there is no point in seeking Supreme Court review when a case failed to even garner a dissent at the Court of Appeal.  So – how much of the Court’s civil docket, year by year, consisted of cases where there was a dissent below?

The absolute numbers are reported in Table 412 below.  Thirteen of the Court’s civil cases in 1994 involved dissents below.  Eleven did in 1995.  For the rest of that decade, the level of non-unanimous Court of Appeal decisions was relatively flat – five in 1996 and 1997, four in 1998, seven in 1999 and nine in 2000.  The Court decided six civil cases which were non-unanimous below in 2001, but only one in 2002 and two in 2003. The Court decided seven in 2004, five in 2005, eight in 2006, nine each in 2007 and 2008, four in 2009, three in 2010 and nine in 2011.  Six of the Court’s civil cases in 2012 were non-unanimous below.  Only two in 2013, three in 2014 and one in 2015 were.  The numbers have been up in the past two years, but only a bit – seven of the Court’s civil cases were non-unanimous at the Court of Appeal in 2016, and eight were in 2017.

But of course, the significance of this data depends on the varying size of the Court’s caseload each year.  So in Table 413, we review the civil docket again, this time reporting the year by year data for civil decisions with a dissent below as a percentage of the total civil decisions filed that year.

We find that with two small spikes – 1994 and the years 2011-2012 – the share of the civil docket taken by non-unanimous Court of Appeal decisions has been fairly consistent – between ten and twenty percent.  In 1994, non-unanimous cases were 25.49% of the civil docket.  That figure fell each year following – to 19.3% in 1995, 16.67% in 1996, 10% in 1997 and 7.41% in 1998.  In 1999, only 13.46% of the Court’s civil cases involved dissents below.  In 2000, only 18.37% did.  In 2001, 12.5% did.

For 2002 and 2003, non-unanimous Court of Appeal decisions fell to only 2.08% in 2002 and 4.55% in 2003.  In 2004, 13.21% of the docket arose from non-unanimous decisions.  In 2005, 9.8% did.  The two following years, the share was 15.09% and 16.07%.  In 2008, 22.5% of the civil docket involved a dissent below, but in 2009, only 9.09% did.  In 2010, the figure was lower still – 7.14% of the civil docket.  In 2011 and 2012, we saw a two year spike – 27.27% of the docket in 2011 and 23.08% in 2012 – but the share fell back to average levels since then and has remained there.  In 2013, 6.25% of the docket arose from non-unanimous decisions.  In 2014, 13.04% did.  In 2015, only 3.13% did.  In 2016, 19.44% of the civil caseload involved a dissent below, and in 2017, 19.05% did.

Join us back here later today as we take a look at the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by RGexman (no changes).

 

Which Counties Produce the Court’s Criminal Docket (Part 7)?

Yesterday, we reviewed the second half of the list of counties which produced the Supreme Court’s civil docket from 1994 through 2017.  Today, we’re wrapping up the list on the criminal, quasi-criminal, juvenile and disciplinary side of the docket.

Overall, Yolo County has accounted for 0.61% of the Court’s total criminal caseload.  Placer and Butte counties have contributed 0.53% apiece.  Tehama and San Luis Obispo have contributed 0.45%.  Five counties have accounted for five cases each, or 0.38% of the total criminal docket: Imperial, Lake, Tuolumne, El Dorado and Lassen.  Yuba County produced four cases, or 0.3% of the docket.  Merced and Mendocino counties have produced three criminal cases each, or 0.23% of the docket.

Trinity County also produced 0.23% of the criminal docket.  Three counties accounted for 0.15% of the criminal docket apiece – Napa, Amador and Humboldt.  The Court decided one case each from ten different jurisdictions – 0.08% of the docket: Calaveras, Colusa, San Benito, Nevada, Sutter, Plumas, West Orange and Glenn counties, the Northern District of California (certified question review) and the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Join us back here next Thursday as we begin looking at another topic in our ongoing study of the Court’s decision making.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Don DeBold (no changes).

Which Counties Produce the Court’s Civil Docket (Part 7)?

For the past several weeks, we’ve been looking at the data for which Superior Courts have produced the largest share, year by year, of the Court’s civil and criminal dockets.  Last week, we began looking at the overall numbers for the years 1994 through 2017, reviewing the most frequent counties on the Court’s docket.  This week, we’re finishing that process – first, the civil cases.

For the entire period, Stanislaus County accounted for 0.47% of the docket.  Mendocino and Kings counties produced 0.38%.  Six trial courts produced 0.28% of the civil docket – Lake, Humboldt, Santa Cruz, Shasta and Yolo counties, and the Southern District of California on certified question appeal.  Sutter, Tuolumne and Imperial County each produced 0.19% of the docket.  Trinity County contributed 0.09%.

For the period, thirteen additional jurisdictions accounted for 0.09% of the civil docket – Marin, Napa, San Benito, Butte, Nevada, Calaveras, El Dorado, Sierra, Inyo, Merced and Placer counties; trial courts which we were unable to positively identify; and the Eastern District of California on certified question appeal.

Join us back here tomorrow as we look at the rest of the overall data for the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by WBrentPrice (no changes).

Which Counties Produce the Court’s Criminal Docket (Part 6)?

Yesterday, we reviewed the collective data for the years 1994 through 2017 to determine the leading geographical sources of the Court’s civil docket.  Today, we’re looking at the leading sources of the Court’s criminal docket.

Los Angeles County accounted for 27.4% of the Court’s criminal docket.  San Diego and Orange counties were next, producing 8.63% and 8.33%.  Riverside County accounted for 6.51% and Santa Clara County 5.75%.  Alameda County produced 4.09% and San Bernardino County 4.01%.  Sacramento, Kern and Contra Costa counties produced 3.86%, 3.18% and 3.03%, respectively.  Ventura County accounted for 1.74%.  Fresno County produced 1.67%.  San Francisco – the second most common county in the civil docket – produced only 1.51% of the criminal docket.  San Mateo County produced 1.44%.

In Table 407, we review the next fourteen most common counties.  Shasta and Tulare counties have produced 1.21% of the criminal docket since 1994 each.  San Joaquin County has produced 1.14%.  The Court’s original jurisdiction and Solano County produced 1.06% apiece.  Marin and Monterey counties accounted for 0.83% each.  The State Bar Court, Stanislaus and Santa Barbara counties accounted for 0.76% apiece of the criminal docket.  Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties produced 0.68% each.  Madera and Kings counties produced 0.61% of the criminal docket apiece.

Join us back here next Thursday as we continue our review of the Court’s civil and criminal dockets.

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

Which Counties Produce the Court’s Civil Docket (Part 6)?

For the past five weeks, we’ve reviewed the year-by-year data for which trial courts have produced the Supreme Court’s civil and criminal dockets from 1994 through 2017.  This week, we’re summarizing the entire twenty-four years – today, the civil docket, and tomorrow, the criminal cases.

Between 1994 and 2017, the Court has decided 1,056 civil cases.  In Table 404, we report the percentage of that total accounted for by the leading counties.  In all, Los Angeles has accounted for 34.85% of the Court’s civil cases.  San Francisco is next, producing 7.95%.  San Diego and Orange County are next, accounting for 6.34% and 6.06%, respectively.  Sacramento County produced 5.87% of the Court’s civil cases.  Riverside County produced 3.22% and Alameda County 3.13%.  San Bernardino County accounted for 2.75%.  Direct appeals from administrative boards and agencies account for 2.56% of the Court’s civil docket.  Certified question appeals from the Central District of California accounted for 2.08%.  Marin County produced 1.61% and Santa Barbara and San Mateo counties produced 1.52% apiece.

Our collective data continues in Table 405 (note that the left-hand axis of the chart has a very different scale that the axis in Table 404).  For the entire period, Contra Costa County produced 1.33% of the Court’s civil cases.  Fresno County and the Court’s original jurisdiction produced 1.23% apiece.  Ventura County produced 1.04%.  Solano and San Joaquin counties both produced 0.95% of the Court’s civil dockets.  Tulare County produced 0.85%.  Sonoma and Kern counties and the Council on Judicial Performance produced 0.76% apiece.  San Luis Obispo and Monterey produced 0.66%.  Certified question appeals from the Northern District of California accounted for 0.57% of the Court’s civil docket.

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the leading sources of the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jason Jenkins (no changes).

Which Counties Produce the Court’s Criminal Docket (Part 5)?

Yesterday, we reviewed the geographical sources of the Court’s civil docket from 2014 through 2017.  Today, we’re looking at the data for the criminal, quasi-criminal and disciplinary docket.

The Court decided nineteen criminal cases in 2014 which originated in Los Angeles.  The Court decided six cases from Riverside, five from Orange County, four from Sacramento and Ventura, three from Santa Clara, and two from San Diego and the state Bar Court.  The Court decided one case from Alameda, Contra Costa, Imperial, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Tulare, Monterey and Kings counties, and one case from the Court’s original jurisdiction.

2015 was very unusual in the Court’s recent history – Los Angeles did not produce more cases than any other county.  That year, the Court decided seven criminal cases from Riverside County.  The Court decided six cases from Los Angeles, five from Orange County, four from San Diego and Santa Clara, three from Alameda, Contra Costa and San Bernardino, and two from Sacramento and Shasta counties.  The Court decided one case from Sonoma, Lake, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as one case arising under the Court’s original jurisdiction.

In 2016, the Court decided fourteen criminal cases from Los Angeles.  Orange County was next with eight cases.  The Court decided five cases from San Diego, four from Riverside and Santa Clara, and two from San Bernardino, San Joaquin and Madera counties.  The Court decided one case each from Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento, Marin, Stanislaus, Shasta, Tehama, Tulare, Yolo, Monterey and Plumas counties.

Last year, the Court decided eight criminal cases from Los Angeles.  The Court decided six cases from San Diego, five from Riverside, four from San Bernardino, and two cases from Contra Costa, Orange and Sacramento counties.  The Court decided one criminal case from Alameda, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, Tuolumne, Amador, Solano and Kings counties.

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to a new issue in our ongoing study of the California Supreme Court’s decision making.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Suwatch (no changes).

Which Counties Produce the Court’s Civil Docket (Part 5)?

For the past several weeks, we’ve been reviewing the year by year data relating to which counties have produced the Supreme Court’s civil and criminal dockets.  This week, we’ve reached our final part – the years 2014 through 2017.  First up – the civil docket.

In 2014, the Court decided ten civil cases from Los Angeles.  The Court decided two cases from Alameda County, and two on certified question review from the Central District of California.  The Court decided one case each from San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Tulare counties.

The Court decided eleven civil cases in 2015 from Los Angeles.  Five cases arose from Orange County, three from San Diego and Alameda counties, two from San Francisco, San Bernardino and direct administrative appeals, and one each from Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside and Kern counties.

In 2016, the Court decided twenty-two civil cases originating in Los Angeles.  The Court decided two cases each from Sacramento and Riverside counties, and one from San Francisco, San Diego, Orange, San Mateo, Alameda, San Joaquin and Monterey counties, as well as one case on direct administrative appeal, one case under the Court’s original jurisdiction, and one case on certified question appeal from the Southern District of California.

In 2017, the Court decided thirteen civil cases from Los Angeles, three from Sacramento, San Diego and Marin, and two from Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Bernardino counties, as well as two cases on direct administrative appeal and two on certified question appeal from the Central District of California.  The Court decided one civil case each from Santa Clara, San Francisco, Fresno, Contra Costa and Imperial counties, as well as one case within the Court’s original jurisdiction.

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the Court’s criminal docket for the years 2014 through 2017.

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

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