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