One of the enduring bits of conventional wisdom that one often hears about California appellate law is that there is no point in seeking Supreme Court review when a case failed to even garner a dissent at the Court of Appeal. So – how much of the Court’s civil docket, year by year, consisted of cases where there was a dissent below?
The absolute numbers are reported in Table 412 below. Thirteen of the Court’s civil cases in 1994 involved dissents below. Eleven did in 1995. For the rest of that decade, the level of non-unanimous Court of Appeal decisions was relatively flat – five in 1996 and 1997, four in 1998, seven in 1999 and nine in 2000. The Court decided six civil cases which were non-unanimous below in 2001, but only one in 2002 and two in 2003. The Court decided seven in 2004, five in 2005, eight in 2006, nine each in 2007 and 2008, four in 2009, three in 2010 and nine in 2011. Six of the Court’s civil cases in 2012 were non-unanimous below. Only two in 2013, three in 2014 and one in 2015 were. The numbers have been up in the past two years, but only a bit – seven of the Court’s civil cases were non-unanimous at the Court of Appeal in 2016, and eight were in 2017.
But of course, the significance of this data depends on the varying size of the Court’s caseload each year. So in Table 413, we review the civil docket again, this time reporting the year by year data for civil decisions with a dissent below as a percentage of the total civil decisions filed that year.
We find that with two small spikes – 1994 and the years 2011-2012 – the share of the civil docket taken by non-unanimous Court of Appeal decisions has been fairly consistent – between ten and twenty percent. In 1994, non-unanimous cases were 25.49% of the civil docket. That figure fell each year following – to 19.3% in 1995, 16.67% in 1996, 10% in 1997 and 7.41% in 1998. In 1999, only 13.46% of the Court’s civil cases involved dissents below. In 2000, only 18.37% did. In 2001, 12.5% did.
For 2002 and 2003, non-unanimous Court of Appeal decisions fell to only 2.08% in 2002 and 4.55% in 2003. In 2004, 13.21% of the docket arose from non-unanimous decisions. In 2005, 9.8% did. The two following years, the share was 15.09% and 16.07%. In 2008, 22.5% of the civil docket involved a dissent below, but in 2009, only 9.09% did. In 2010, the figure was lower still – 7.14% of the civil docket. In 2011 and 2012, we saw a two year spike – 27.27% of the docket in 2011 and 23.08% in 2012 – but the share fell back to average levels since then and has remained there. In 2013, 6.25% of the docket arose from non-unanimous decisions. In 2014, 13.04% did. In 2015, only 3.13% did. In 2016, 19.44% of the civil caseload involved a dissent below, and in 2017, 19.05% did.
Join us back here later today as we take a look at the Court’s criminal docket.