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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 misconduct.

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, 15.)

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).)

Court Funding

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 hearing (1,769).

Court Personnel and Offices

Court Administrator/Clerk

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 clerical staff.

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 research staffs.

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.

Law Library

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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