Today, we begin our analysis of a new subject – tracking the California Supreme Court’s experience with amicus curiae briefs. The Court more closely tracks the experience of the United States Supreme Court than of other state Supreme Courts (including the Illinois Supreme Court, as reported in our Illinois Supreme Court Review) in its open-handed approach to amicus briefs. Note that we consider multiple parties joining in a single brief to be a single amicus in our data below.
In Table 118 below, we report the total number of amicus briefs the Court has accepted each year in civil cases, divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions. Not surprisingly, amicus briefs are quite common in cases which the Court winds up deciding with one or more dissents. In 2000, amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases outnumbered briefs in unanimous cases 112 to 80. The following year, the Court permitted 63 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 88 in unanimous ones. The following year, the two sides of the docket were evenly split – 69 briefs in non-unanimous decisions, 70 in unanimous ones. In 2003, the Court accepted 83 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 110 in unanimous ones. The following year, amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions outnumbered briefs in unanimous decisions 95 to 79. In 2005, the trend reversed itself – the Court accepted 59 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions to 157 in unanimous cases. For 2006, the Court accepted 42 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 131 in unanimous cases. For 2007, briefs were evenly split – 91 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, 91 in unanimous decisions.
We report the average amicus briefs per case in Table 119 below. In 2000, the Court accepted an average of 3.84 additional briefs per case in civil matters. In 2001, the figure dipped slightly, to 3.15 briefs, and further still in 2002, to 2.9. For 2003, amicus briefs increased to an average of 5.68 per case. The following year, the Court accepted 3.35 additional briefs in each civil case. For 2005, the average increased to 4.32 amicus briefs. The pace of amicus briefs declined a bit in the following two years. In 2006, the Court accepted 3.26 additional briefs per civil matter. For 2007, the Court accepted 3.33 amicus briefs for each civil matter.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s experience with amicus briefs in criminal cases between 2000 and 2007.