California Supreme Court

California Supreme Court

What is the California Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court of California is the highest state court in California. It is headquartered in San Francisco and regularly holds sessions in Los Angeles and Sacramento. Its decisions are binding on all other California state courts.

How are judges appointed to the California Supreme Court?

One Chief Justice and six associate justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The appointments are confirmed by the public at the next general election; justices also come before voters at the end of their 12-year terms.

To be considered for appointment, a person must be an attorney admitted to practice in California or have served as a judge of a court of record in this state for 10 years immediately preceding appointment (Cal. Const., art VI, § 10).

The Original Jurisdiction and Authority of the Court

The Supreme Court 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).

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 court selects specific issues for review, or it may decide all the issues in a case (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 12). The Constitution also directs the high 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 directly from the trial court to the Supreme Court (Pen. Code, § 1239(b)).

In addition, the Supreme Court reviews the recommendations of the Commission on Judicial Performance and the State Bar of California concerning the discipline of judges and attorneys for misconduct. The only other matters coming directly to the Supreme Court are appeals from decisions of the Public Utilities Commission.

Approximately 9,274 matters were filed in the Supreme Court during fiscal year 2008-09; with 5,151 petitions for review in cases previously decided by the Courts of Appeal. Decisions of the Supreme Court are published in the California Official Reports.

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