The California Supreme Court, 2018-2019: The Rise of the Brown Court?
By Kirk C. Jenkins
Kirk Jenkins is an appellate specialist at Horvitz & Levy in San Francisco.
With the swearing-in of Justice Joshua P. Groban on January 3, 2019, the longest vacancy in the history of the California Supreme Court came to an end. With the change, some predicted that the philosophical composition of the Court would shift for the first time in 32 years with four nominees of former Governor Jerry Brown and three nominees of Republican Governors. The change raises two primary questions for our review of the Court’s 20182019 judicial year (JY): Does the addition of a seventh justice tell us anything about how the Court was operating during the extended Wer-degar vacancy, and will a fourth Democratic nominee to the Court signal a shift to a more liberal Court in one or more areas of the law?
For JY2019, the Court decided a total of 75 cases (32 civil, 43 criminal). This was a 12% percent drop from the previous year, when the Court decided 85 cases (36 civil, 49 criminal), and even a bit more of a drop from JY2017, when the Court decided 90 cases (46 civil, 44 criminal). This does not appear to be a sustained trend, however; the Court decided 78 cases in JY2016 and only 74 in JY2015.