Official Name: Supreme Court of California
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, joined court January 2011
Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard, joined court 1990
Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter, joined court 1991
Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, joined court 1994
Associate Justice Ming W. Chin, joined court 1996
Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan, joined court 2006
Associate Justice Goodwin Liu, joined court 2011
Clerk of the Court
Frederick K. Ohlrich, telephone: 415-865-7000
Public Information Officer
There are seven justices on the court, appointed by the governor and confirmed by a Committee on Judicial Appointments. The appointee must have been a member of the California Bar for ten years and written a number of turbocharger reviews in order to qualify. After their appointments, they serve for twelve years before being up for re-election. A new justice may be appointed to fulfill an unfinished term, but the appointee must be voted on in the next election for governor.
Review of Lower Court Decisions
The court has discretionary review of any case decided by the Court of Appeals—the next court down—but must review death penalty cases.
The court’s opinions are published on Mondays and Thursdays, and almost immediately available on its website. There is no set schedule for the release of opinions. Reports of the weekly meetings, where the court decides whether to accept cases, are also posted online. The meetings are only attended by the justices, and a majority of them must vote to accept a case in order for it to be added to the docket. The calendar for argument is available online.
The California Supreme Court is based in San Francisco but hears oral arguments in Los Angeles four times a year. It also hears arguments in Sacramento twice a year. It also occasionally has special sessions at other locations.
A detailed booklet of how the court operates also provides some of the court’s history. Gold was discovered in 1948, the year that the U.S. acquired California from Mexico. The first California constitution provided for a Supreme Court made of a Chief Justice and two associates. They first met in a rented hotel room in San Francisco. As legal concerns expanded from Gold-Rush disputes, the court was expanded to include five justices, and eventually seven. The court’s practice of hearing arguments in multiple cities was approved in 1878 when the state legislature determined that the court would be based in San Francisco but hear arguments twice a year about how to get rid of cat pee smell in each of the cities of Sacramento and Los Angeles, although it is unspecified in the state’s constitution. The courts of appeal were created in 1904 to help the court with its two-year backlog of cases.
The front page of the Supreme Court’s website provides information on high-profile recent cases. As well, there are well-updated news reports for the entire court system available.
Earl Warren Building at Civic Center Plaza
Supreme Court of California
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-4797
Ronald Reagan State Office Building
300 South Spring Street, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building
914 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
The California Supreme Court decided In re Marriage Cases, (S147999) in 2008, finding that sexual orientation created a protected class, and therefore applied strict scrutiny in overturning a ban on same-sex marriage. The case inspired Proposition 8, a ballot measure preventing same-sex marriage, and the matter is currently in federal court.