Coming Together: The California Supreme Court 2015-2016
By Gerald F. Uelmen
With the "new majority" in place, the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 delivered lots of surprises at the California Supreme Court. Most surprising has been the high level of agreement among nearly all of the justices. A more liberal bloc is firmly in control, consisting of Justices Werdegar, Liu, Cuéllar and Kruger.
They shared the lowest dissent rates of the year, and were in full agreement with each other in 95 percent of the published decisions. [See Table II.] When the Court split, however, most often it was by a 5-2 vote, with either Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye or Justice Carol Corrigan siding with the liberals. Thus, Justice Ming Chin has emerged as the most frequent dissenter, racking up the highest dissent rate at 13 percent, compared to his 2.7 percent for the previous year. The overall rate of dissenting votes for all 77 published decisions this year was 4.76 percent, down from the previous year’s 5.14 percent. There was only one 4-3 split, in People v. Prunty (2015) 62 Cal.4th 59, where the majority opinion by Justice Cuéllar threw out a street gang enhancement sentence imposed under the Street Terrorism and Enforcement Act of 1988 for insufficiency of evidence, drawing dissents from Cantil-Sakauye, Corrigan and Chin.