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The Supreme Court of California is the state's highest court, and its
decisions are binding on all other California state courts.
The Supreme Court, which consists of a Chief Justice and six associate
justices, has original jurisdiction in proceedings for extraordinary
relief in the nature of mandamus, certiorari, and prohibition. The court
also has original jurisdiction in habeas corpus proceedings (Cal.
Const., art. VI, 10) and may review decisions of the Public Utility
Commission (id., art. XII, 5; Pub. Util. Code, 1756 et seq.).
The state Constitution gives the Supreme Court the authority to review
decisions of the state Courts of Appeal. (Cal. Const., art. VI, 12.)
This reviewing power enables the Supreme Court to decide important legal
questions and to maintain uniformity in the law.
The state Constitution directs the Supreme Court to review all cases in
which a judgment of death has been pronounced by the trial court. (Cal.
Const., art. VI, 11.) Under state law, these cases are automatically
appealed. (Pen. Code, 1239, subd. (b).)
In addition, the Supreme Court reviews the recommendations of the
Commission on Judicial Performance and the State Bar of California
concerning the removal and suspension of judges and attorneys for
Decisions of the Supreme Court are published in the Official Reports.
Members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Governor after review
by the State Bar's Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission. Justices
also must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. To be
eligible for appointment, a person must have been a member of the State
Bar of California or a judge of a court of record in this state for at
least 10 years immediately preceding appointment. (Cal. Const., art. VI,
Supreme Court justices serve 12-year terms. They must stand for
confirmation for the remainder of their predecessor's unexpired term on
a statewide ballot at the first gubernatorial election following their
appointment. (Cal. Const., art. VI, 16 (a).)
The Supreme Court is operated entirely from state funds, as are the
state Courts of Appeal, the Judicial Council of California, and the
Commission on Judicial Performance.
In January 1989, the state also began assuming partial responsibility
for funding all trial courts, under the provisions of the State Trial
Court Funding Act. Until 1989, the trial courts were funded mainly at
the county level, with a relatively small contribution from the state.
The Court's Workload
Supreme Court filings totaled 5,887 in fiscal year 1992-93. The majority
of these filings were petitions for review in cases decided by the
Courts of Appeal (3,976). Twenty-five years earlier, the court recorded
about one-half as many filings (2,959) and half as many petitions for
Court Personnel and Offices
The Court Administrator/Clerk, appointed by the court, is the court's
executive officer. The Court Administrator/Clerk is responsible for
overseeing the administration and management of the court's nonjudicial
functions, including supervising and directing the Clerk's Office and
the Calendar Coordination Office, administering the court's personnel
and budget systems, and overseeing activities relating to information
systems, purchasing, and other business services. The Court
Administrator/Clerk is also responsible for appointing counsel in
capital appeals and other cases; preparing the court's calendar;
docketing its cases; maintaining the court's public records, files, and
documents; and advising litigants, counsel, and the public of the status
of matters before the court.
The Court Administrator/Clerk is assisted by the Assistant Court
Administrator/Clerk, the Chief Deputy Clerk, the Automatic Appeals
Monitor, several deputy clerks, and support staff. The Court
Administrator/Clerk's Office is headquartered in San Francisco, with
branch offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. The Supreme Court also
accepts filing at the clerk's offices of state Courts of Appeal in
Fresno and San Diego.
Calendar Coordination Office
The Calendar Coordination Office, headed by the Calendar Coordinator
(also known as the secretary of the court), coordinates and expedites
the flow of internal documents such as conference and calendar memoranda
and circulating draft opinions.
This office advises the justices of action taken or scheduled to be
taken on matters before the court; assists in setting up the schedule
for hearing oral arguments; supervises the reproduction of internal
documents; and maintains various lists and records by which the status
of pending matters may be determined.
The Calendar Coordinator is assisted by three deputy clerks and a
Reporter of Decisions
The Reporter of Decisions, appointed by the court, supervises the
preparation and publication of California appellate court opinions in
the Official Reports.
The reporter ensures the editorial integrity of all opinions from filing
through publication and reviews the accuracy of the editorial
information included in the advance sheets and bound volumes. The
standards for publication of opinions are established by the California
Rules of Court, rule 976.
The Reporter of Decisions is assisted by the Assistant Reporter and a
staff of attorney editors.
The bailiffs are responsible for the security of the court and its
justices. The bailiffs also prepare the courtroom for calendar sessions,
staff the court's reception area to maintain security of the court's
facilities, and perform various other support duties.
The Justices' Staffs
Each justice is supported by a staff of attorneys and a secretary.
Associate justices have up to five staff attorneys, most of whom are
long-term court employees. Traditionally, the Chief Justice has had
additional staff positions to assist with administrative work. Some
justices also make use of law student "externs" to augment their
In addition, the court has two central staffs. The criminal central
staff is composed of a director and 12 attorneys. It prepares conference
memoranda in criminal matters (except automatic appeals) and State Bar
proceedings. The civil central staff is composed of a director and 13
attorneys and prepares conference memoranda in civil matters.
Established in 1868, the Supreme Court's law library serves as a
repository for source materials that aid the court and its staff in
legal research. The library's 150,000 volumes are supplemented by
several computerized legal research systems.
The law library is staffed by a librarian, an assistant librarian, and
two library assistants who are also responsible for maintaining and
updating the 50,000 volumes that are kept in the offices of the justices
and their staffs.
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