Yesterday, we began our review of the length of the California Supreme Court’s majority opinions, addressing the Court’s civil opinions between 2000 and 2007. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions in criminal cases during the same period.
We report the data in Table 113 below. Two things are evident: first, majority opinions are consistently longer on the criminal side than the civil side, almost entirely because of the influence of death penalty appeals. Second, while majority opinions in non-unanimous cases are inevitably longer on the civil side, non-unanimous majorities are not generally longer on the criminal side. For 2000, non-unanimous and unanimous criminal opinions were almost indistinguishable – non-unanimous majorities averaged 36 pages, while unanimous majorities averaged 35.35 pages. In 2001, the mean non-unanimous majority opinion was 26.11 pages, to 31.45 for unanimous decisions. In 2002, the average non-unanimous majority had increased to 38.14 pages, while the average unanimous majority decision was flat at 30.02 pages. In 2003, non-unanimous criminal majorities averaged 34.22 pages, to 34.83 pages on the unanimous side. The following year, non-unanimous majorities had fallen slightly to 29.87 pages, while unanimous majorities were up a bit to 35.33 pages. In 2005, non-unanimous majorities were flat, averaging 29.47 pages. Majority opinions in unanimous cases, on the other hand, averaged 50.93 pages. For 2006, non-unanimous majorities were up just a bit to 32.9 pages, and majority opinions in unanimous decisions were up to 55.63 pages. In 2007, non-unanimous majority opinions were up sharply, averaging 51.38 pages. Majority opinions in unanimous criminal decisions were back at their trend level, averaging 36.67 pages.
Join us back here next week as we turn our attention to the Court’s death penalty decisions, and then to the Court’s majority opinions between 2008 and 2015.