Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cuéllar by the numbers

Today's DJ has Kirk Jenkins' Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar by the numbers

  • Seventeen of Justice Cuéllar's majority opinions have been for unanimous courts. Two were filed for five-vote majorities and two were in cases decided 4-3. All five of Justice Cuéllar's concurring opinions in civil cases were filed in unanimous decisions. Justice Cuéllar does not appear to limit his dissents in civil cases to closely divided courts; he has written three in 6-1 decisions, two in 5-2 decisions and two in 4-3 decisions.
  • During his first two years on the court, Justice Cuéllar's closest voting match on the civil side was with Chief Justice Tani-Cantil-Sakauye -- an agreement rate of 93.75%. He agreed with Justice Carol Corrigan nearly as often: 91.67%. Justice Cuéllar agreed with Justices Liu and Kathryn M. Werdegar in 81.25% of non-unanimous civil cases. His lowest civil agreement rates during these years were with Justice Kruger (68.75%) and Justice Ming Chin (62.5%).
  • Justice Cuéllar is a frequent questioner, and often begins the questioning against one party or both. In 2017, Justice Cuéllar led off against one or both parties in 57.14% of civil cases and 41.46% of criminal cases. In 2018, he began in 48.48% of civil cases and 32% of criminal cases. So far in 2019, he has led off in 60% of civil cases and 44.74% of criminal cases.
  • takeaways from Justice Cuéllar's first five years on the court are: He writes few concurrences and does not appear to write "tactical dissents," meaning deciding whether to dissent based on the court's vote. His voting patterns have been relatively moderate in recent years, comparable in both civil and criminal cases to Justice Werdegar and (if his first year on the court is an indication) Justice Groban. Justice Cuéllar's voting patterns are not closely comparable to Justices Liu and Kruger. He is an active questioner at oral argument, and if he asks the first question, it may mean he is writing an opinion.
Also: Don't miss Kirk's latest long-format article, The California Supreme Court, 2018-2019: The Rise of the Brown Court? 32:3 California Litigation 9-13 (2019). [California Litigation journal is a publication of the CLA's Litigation Section. If you're not a member, join now!]