Data: Criminal cases in California not argued in a timely manner before state Supreme Court

By Dee Thompson | Mar 14, 2017

SACRAMENTO — Attorney Kirk Jenkins of Sedgwick LLP has made a science of analyzing the California Supreme Court and how it operates, but its handling of criminal cases has bore particular scrutiny.

The data he has indicate that it takes a long time from when the court grants review to when the attorneys actually get to stand in front of the court and argue.

In 2016, Sedgwick LLP launched an online database, the California Supreme Court Review, that analyzes Supreme Court cases from 2000 through 2015. It provides attorneys with hard data about how likely it is that cases will get heard by the Supreme Court, and what the likely outcome may be.

“The issue isn't the lag time from oral argument to decision; it's the time from grant of review to argument,” Jenkins told the Northern California Record. “Once the case is argued, the court has — with very limited exceptions — to decide it in 90 days or less. As a result, the lag time from argument to decision varies only around a very narrow band. But there's no limitation on how long it can run from grant to argument.”

Jenkins said that last year, the average lag time on criminal cases from grant of review — or in death cases, the appointment of counsel — to argument was 2,420.79 days.

“Those cases should be split into death-penalty and nondeath cases,” he said. “The average from appointment of counsel to argument in death cases was 4,496.08 days. I suspect that's a one-year spike; the trend number in recent years has been between 3,700 and 3,800 days. The average span from grant to argument in criminal nondeath cases was 641.96 days.”

Jenkins doesn’t just analyze data about arguments. The final result is crucial.

“The interesting thing about lag times from grant to argument is that they're indicative of what the final result is likely to be,” he said. “For the entire 17-year period 2000-2016, the average lag time from grant to argument in civil affirmances was 596.58 days. For civil reversals, it was a little more than three weeks less — 572.44 days. On the criminal side, affirmances averaged 1,967 days from grant to argument. Reversals averaged 952.69 days.”

According to an Associated Press report, Proposition 66, which was passed by voters last November, seeks to change procedures regarding state-court appeals, and petitions challenging death-penalty sentences and convictions. Implementation of it was stayed by the California Supreme Court on Dec. 20, 2016.

Briefings on it are allowed through April 6, according to California is one of 30 states in which the death penalty is legal, reported.

Jenkins said the fate of Proposition 66 will be be important to his data.

“There's a major issue of what the impact of Proposition 66, if it's ultimately upheld, on lag times on civil and non-death criminal cases is likely to be,” he said.

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