The California court system is the largest in the world, with several hundred more judicial officers than the entire U.S. federal system. In the most recent fiscal year reported, our appellate courts produced almost 10,000 written opinions – and disposed of over 20,000 additional matters through other means.
With that grounding in the sheer size of the California system, I thought it would be useful to look at some of the resources that California appellate courts offer, and do not offer.
- Online case information search. The online docket system for the appellate courts is quite robust, allowing anyone interested to check the status and history of any docketed matter, search for appeals handled by particular counsel (albeit one district at a time), etc. But the system does not offer online access to filed briefs or other pleadings. Our Supreme Court posts briefs in argued cases, and thousands more briefs are becoming available online through other sources – but there is no easy, comprehensive source.
- Oral Argument recordings. Various appellate courts around the U.S. now post video of all arguments on the court’s website – a valuable resource for counsel preparing for arguments, or seeking a preview of opposing counsel. California is far from that day. Most of our courts do make audio recordings available on request, though sometimes in clunky formats.
- E-Filing. Despite California’s long history of technological innovation, appellate e-filing is still creeping slowly across the state. It is mandatory for only some pleadings in some districts, with many courts still regarding paper as the official “filing” medium (along with submission of an electronic copy). We’ll get there.
- Well Developed Rules. In California, “there’s a rule for that” – and based on my pro hac practice in states with less developed rules, I am convinced that it helps. Knowing what to do and what to expect in most appellate situations promotes efficiency and fairness (and knowing your way around some rules helps too).
- The practical message: These judicial resources are just the beginning, of course. Counsel relationships and knowledge of our large appellate bench are also powerful resources for success in the California system.