Courts in California
Courts in California include the three courts of California's state court system, four federal district courts, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is based in San Francisco.
The Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort. It has jurisdiction to review parts or entire cases from the Courts of Appeal. In deciding which cases merit review, the California Supreme Court focuses on significant legal issues of statewide importance. it also has jurisdiction in mandamus, certiorari, habeas corpus and prohibition cases.
The Courts of Appeal are the intermediate appellate courts in California. There are six districts and 105 judges serving in them. Most of the cases that come before the Courts of Appeal involve the review of a superior court decision that is being contested by a party to the case.
These are California's trial courts. They conduct all original trials in the state, except in cases where the appellate level courts have original jurisdiction. Up until 1998, most of California's 58 counties had their own county court system. The passage of Proposition 220 in 1998 changed that, allowing the superior and municipal courts in a county to consolidate their operations if a majority of the superior court and municipal court judges in the county agreed to the consolidation. Under the terms of the proposition, if a consolidation was agreed to, the county's municipal courts would be abolished and all municipal court judges and employees would become superior court judges and employees.
The entire state court system in California is administered by the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which is an agency under the control of the Judicial Council of California. The AOC's main office is located in San Francisco. The AOC also maintains three three regional offices.
The agency is organized into nine divisions in San Francisco, one division in Sacramento, and three regional offices. The AOC has more than 900 employees.
The Judicial Council of California (CJC) makes policy for the entire California state court system. The CJC implements the decisions it makes through its agency, the California Administrative Office of the Courts.
The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court is by law the chair of the Judicial Council. Ronald M. George, having been the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court since 1996, has exerted a strong influence on how the CJC and the AOC are run.
Budget woes and court closings
In 2009, the California state court system absorbed a 10% budget cut totalling $414 million, which led to mandatory court closings throughout the 59-county Superior Court system of one day a month.
The four federal district courts in California are the United States District Court for the Central District of California, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. In addition, San Francisco is home to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which hears appeals from the following District courts:
In May 2011 the Supreme Court ordered California to reduce their prison population. The court concluded that the prison overcrowding violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The court then rejected California's bid for more time and leeway.
- Courthouse News Service, "Legislature Votes to Restore $100 Million to California Courts," May 24, 2013
- Courthouse News Service, "No relief for California courts in May budget revise," May 14, 2013
- Official California Voter Guide to Proposition 220
- Sacramento Bee, "Tipping the scales of the indefensible," December 12, 2009
- McClatchy Newspapers, "Supreme Court: California must reduce prison population," May 23, 2011
- Restorative Justice Online, "Governor Jerry Brown: Can he support restorative justice?" Jan 12, 2011