Statistics show that the number of civil cases accepted for review by California’s highest court has varied dramatically in recent years, but by any count, the numbers are still small.
According to a report released by the State’s Administrative Office of the Courts, for the year 2008, the California Supreme Court granted 6% of all civil petitions for review, down from 8% the previous year (2007) but up from the mere 3% granted in 2006.
For 2008, out of a total of 5,989 civil petitions, the court
• denied just over 5,400
• outright granted 82
• granted and held 210
• granted and transferred 51 back to the intermediate court of appeal.
These numbers may seem exceedingly low, but consider that many litigants just don’t understand the court’s limited function in reviewing decisions of the lower courts. Review by the California Supreme Court is discretionary. As a judicial policy maker, the court typically accepts only those issues that may affect other litigants or when necessary to resolve a conflict in the published decisions. But many litigants do not understand this unique function, choosing to seek review even when they cannot satisfy these special requirements. Thus, a great many petitions are denied out of hand.
Maximizing the chances for review: read and comply with the court’s special requirements. Follow the rules. List the issue presented first, followed by an explanation of why this case deserves to be one of the select few that should make the cut. The petition for review is less a legal document, explaining why the petitioner should win under the law, than it is a persuasive plea on why the court should hear the case.