Earlier today, we addressed the jurisdictional sources of the California Supreme Court’s civil docket for the first six years of our period of study, 2000-2005. Now, we turn to the criminal docket for those same years.

Largely because of the mandatory death penalty docket, final judgments are routinely a smaller fraction of the Court’s criminal docket than they are on the civil side. We report the data from 2000 in Table 8 below. Final judgments appealed under Penal Code 1237(a) comprised 49.12% of the docket in 2000, while death penalty appeals constituted another 26.32%. The remaining sources accounted for only minor shares. The Court decided three cases each, or 5.26% of the criminal docket, involving appeals from guilty pleas, petitions for writ of prohibition and the like and appeals by the government. The Court heard one appeal each – 1.75% of the criminal, quasi-criminal, juvenile and disciplinary docket – in four different areas.

Table 8

For 2001, final judgments were up and death penalty cases were down. The Court decided 33 appeals from final judgments, or 60% of the docket. On the other hand, the Court decided only 10 death penalty appeals (18.18%). The Court decided three writ petitions (5.45%), two habeas petitions and two appeals from the State Bar Court (3.64% each). Four additional areas contributed one case apiece.

Table 9

The criminal docket was somewhat more widely distributed in 2002, with 49.25% of the caseload being appeals from final judgments. The Court decided 14 more death penalty appeals, or 20.9% of the docket. Six of the Court’s decisions arose from original petitions (8.96% of the docket), and four were appeals from guilty pleas (5.97%). Appeals by the government, habeas corpus petitions, and two juvenile matters arising from the Welfare & Institutions Code accounted for 2.99% of the docket apiece.

Table 10


After three years in which the Court decided double or more appeals from final judgments as death penalty cases, the two categories were almost even in 2003. The Court decided 22 appeals from final judgments, or 36.67% of the docket, and 19 death penalty cases (31.67%). The Court decided three cases each – 5% of this side of the docket – arising from appeals from guilty verdicts (Penal Code Section 1237.5), petitions for original writ, petitions for habeas corpus,death penalty habeas cases, and juvenile matters under the Welfare and Institutions Code.

Table 11

Final judgments and death penalty appeals once again amounted to two-thirds of the criminal docket in 2004. The Court decided 29 appeals from final judgments (40.28% of the docket), and 21 death penalty appeals (29.17%). 2004 saw a one-year spike in appeals from guilty pleas, as the Court decided eight cases under Penal Code 1237.5 (11.11% of the docket). Another 5.56% of the docket was in habeas petitions, and 4.17% came from appeals by the government. The Court decided two habeas appeals in death cases and two more juvenile cases under Welfare & Institutions Code Section 300, and one case each in three additional areas.

Table 12

Finally, we turn to the docket for 2005 in Table 13 below. For the first time, death penalty appeals comprised a larger fraction of the criminal docket than appeals from final judgments did, with the Court deciding 25 death cases (43.1%) and 21 final judgments (36.21%). The rest of the docket was relatively minimal; the Court decided three original petitions, three death penalty habeas cases (5.17% each), two general habeas petitions (3.45%), and one case each from three additional areas.

Table 13

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to the Court’s docket between 2006 and 2010.

Image courtesy of Flickr by David Merrett (no changes).