Cal. Litig. 2018, Volume 31, Number 3

The California Supreme Court, 2017-2018: Coping With a Short Bench

By Kirk C. Jenkins

For more than two decades, Professor Gerald Uelmen’s annual year-in-review article about the California Supreme Court’s work has been a highlight for those of us who practice in California. Professor Uelmen’s penetrating analysis and his pioneering use of analytics contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the Court. Professor Uelmen’s retirement leaves big shoes to fill with our review of the Court’s 2017-2018 judicial year ("JY2018"): September 1, 2017 to August 30, 2018.

JY2018 was dominated by the year-long vacancy in Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar’s seat. Despite anecdotal reports that the vacancy reduced the Court’s productivity, evidence of that is sparse. The Court decided 85 cases in JY2018—36 civil and 49 criminal— compared to 89 in JY2017 and 90 in JY2016. During the Court’s last extended vacancy in JY2015, the Court decided only 47 cases. Pro tem Justices cast 87 votes in JY2018 as compared to only 37 in JY2015.

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