Last week, we concluded our review of the jurisdictional sources of the California Supreme Court’s civil and criminal dockets. Today, we turn to a new question: where do the Court’s dockets come from geographically? As we discussed a few weeks ago, one of the variables tracked in our databases is the originating jurisdiction for every case the Court hears.

First, a bit of context. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of April 1, 2010, California’s population was 37,253,956. According to the California Department of Finance, the ten most populous counties, with their estimated population in 2010, were:

Table 34

To put it another way, Los Angeles County accounts for 26.38% of California’s population. The next two biggest counties, San Diego and Orange, are far behind at 8.33% and 8.1%, respectively. We would expect, at least as an opening hypothesis, the Court’s docket to roughly approximate California’s population.

We report the data for the civil docket between 2000 and 2004 in Table 34 below. As we expected, Los Angeles dominated the civil docket during these initial five years, contributing 21 cases in 2000, 15 the next year, 14 in 2002, 13 in 2003 and 21 in 2004. But in second place for most of that period, we have a surprise. San Francisco County doesn’t even make the top ten California counties in population, but in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004, it contributed the second-most civil cases to the Court’s docket (6 in 200 and 2002, 5 in 2003 and 7 in 2004). In 2001, San Francisco was the third most common county in the civil docket, with the Court deciding four cases. The third most common county on the Court’s docket in 2000 was Santa Clara, which ranked sixth in population in 2010. In 2001, the only year that San Francisco fell out of second place, the second most common county on the Court’s civil docket was Orange County. Interestingly, with the exception of 2004, when it tied for third (at five cases) with Orange County, San Diego County – the second biggest county in the state in 2010 in terms of population – was a relatively minor player on the civil docket, producing two cases in 2000, three in 2001, two in 2002, and three in 2004. Riverside and San Bernardino – the fourth and fifth most populous counties in the state in the 2010 census – were also relatively minor players on the civil docket between 2000 and 2004. The Court decided two cases from Riverside County in 2000 and 2002, and one in 2001, 2003 and 2004. The Court decided three cases from San Bernardino in 2002 and 2003, two in 2001, one in 2000 and none at all in 2004. The Court has regularly accepted certified questions from the Ninth Circuit as well, deciding two in 2000, three in 2001, four in 2002 and one in 2003.

The Court’s civil docket was drawn from a wide variety of jurisdictions between 2000 and 2004. In 2000, 2002 and 2003, sixteen different jurisdictions contributed at least one case. In 2001, the Court decided civil cases from 15 different jurisdictions, and in 2004, the Court decided cases from 13 different jurisdictions.

Table 35A

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the criminal docket between 2000 and 2004.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Edward Stojakovic (no changes).