Thursday, July 28, 2016

Does the Cal Supreme Court's docket mirror state demographics?

Kirk Jenkins addresses The Geography of the High Court Docket in today's DJ, analyzing the origins of  cases reaching the California Supreme Court and concluding: "The data demonstrates that the civil docket parallels the state's population distribution only in a general way."

  • "Los Angeles County's share of the population has been drifting down over the past 15 years" but "It has accounted for a significantly greater share of the civil docket than one would expect: 39.67 percent of the caseload between 2010 and 2015, 32.64 percent ..."
  • "San Francisco's share of the civil docket has been steadily declining throughout the period, but has always outstripped its share of state population as well. San Francisco County had ... an estimated 2.21 percent in 2015. Nevertheless, it was the fourth most frequent source of civil cases between 2010 and 2015 and between 2005 and 2009 (5.98 percent and 7.95 percent, respectively), and the second most frequent source between 2000 and 2004 (11.86 percent)."
  • "San Diego County, which surpassed Orange County in recent years to become the second largest county in California by population, is a similar story. ... [I]t was somewhat overrepresented on the civil docket between 2005 and 2009, contributing 9.62 percent of the cases while having 8.31 percent of the population, but for the other two periods, it was underrepresented — 5.43 percent of the cases for 2010-2015, and 5.93 between 2000 and 2004."
  • "Orange County's share tracked its share of population fairly well: Orange County accounted for 8.4 percent of state population in 2000 and 8.1 percent in 2015, and produced 7.61 percent of the civil cases between 2010 and 2015, dipped to 3.77 percent for 2005-2009, but was up to 7.63 percent between 2000 and 2004."
  • "Riverside and San Bernardino counties, today the fourth and fifth biggest counties by population ... have been consistently underrepresented on the court's civil docket."

"The takeaway for California attorneys is this: The Supreme Court's civil docket only tracks population in the most general way, and the correlation grows less and less as one focuses on a shorter time period. The death penalty docket runs a bit closer to population distribution, but it still is greatly influenced by other factors. The originating jurisdictions of the court's criminal cases, on the other hand, tend to stick fairly close to the distribution of California's population."