Lawsuits on the long-term rise in California

Jessica M. Karmasek Dec. 22, 2011, 9:17am

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - Civil filings in California superior courts totaled more than 1 million during fiscal year 2009-10, according to a new report by the state's Judicial Council.

On Wednesday, the council -- the policymaking body of the California courts -- released its 2011 Court Statistics Report.

The council is required under the state constitution to survey the "condition and business" of the state courts, and to report and make recommendations to the governor and the state Legislature.

The report, published annually by the council and the Administrative Office of the Courts, contains key information about the caseload of the state's judicial branch, particularly the number and types of cases that are filed and disposed of in the courts.

Wednesday's report provides detailed statewide caseload information for not only fiscal year 2009-10 but 10-year trend data on the state Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal and the superior courts in the state's 58 counties.

In particular, this year's report shows statewide filings in the superior courts were more than 10 million for the second consecutive year -- a slight decrease from the last year but still a 20 percent increase over the past decade.

The number of superior court case filings totaled 10,074,941 and dispositions totaled 8,782,281.

Of those, civil filings were 1,152,926 and civil dispositions were 1,113,606; criminal filings were 8,270,215 and criminal dispositions were 7,116,013; juvenile filings were 127,387 and juvenile dispositions were 109,970; and family law filings were 452,671 and family law dispositions were 383,547.

Filings and dispositions for all other case types -- probate, mental health, appeals, criminal habeas corpus -- numbered 71,742 and 59,145, respectively.

At the Supreme Court level, filings totaled 9,562 and dispositions totaled 9,439, the report found.

More specifically, the Court received 5,131 petitions seeking review from a Court of Appeal decision in an appeal or an original writ proceeding, and disposed of 5,141 such petitions.

Of those petitions for review, 1,225 arose from appeals in civil matters and 3,906 from appeals in criminal matters.

The report also found that during fiscal year 2009-10, the state's high court issued a total of 96 written opinions.

As for California's Courts of Appeal, the number of contested matters totaled 22,515. Of those, 13,738 were records of appeal and 8,777 were original proceedings, according to the report.

Of those records of appeal filings, 4,539 were civil cases, 6,549 were criminal and 2,650 were juvenile.

The 8,777 original proceedings filings included 2,017 civil, 6,305 criminal and 455 juvenile cases.

The total number of dispositions in the Courts of Appeal were 24,442. Of those, 15,524 were appeals and 8,918 were original proceedings, the report found.

Overall, only 9 percent of Court of Appeal majority opinions were published during the fiscal year.

California's court system serves more than 38 million people -- about 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population -- and processed more than 10 million cases in fiscal year 2009-10, according to the report.

The judicial branch's budget represents slightly more than 3 percent of California's budget.

The court system is currently facing a $350 billion budget reduction.

The cut, passed by the Legislature and approved by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, is the deepest reduction in state court history.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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