Last week, we asked how often the California Supreme Court reviews unpublished decisions on both the civil and criminal dockets.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%.
Join us back here tomorrow as we review the data for the criminal docket between 2000 and 2007.