Yesterday, we began a detailed look at the California Supreme Court’s extensive experience with amicus curiae briefs, beginning with civil cases between 2000 and 2007. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s less extensive experience with amicus briefs in criminal cases.

In Table 120 below, we report the total number of amicus briefs accepted by the Court in criminal cases between 2000 and 2007, divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions. Between 2000 and 2001, the Court accepted few criminal amicus briefs. In 2000, the Court accepted two amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and twelve in unanimous decisions. In 2001, the Court accepted three briefs in non-unanimous criminal cases, and 24 in unanimous decisions. The following year, amicus briefs took a sudden jump, with the Court accepting 34 briefs in non-unanimous cases, and 28 in unanimous decisions. The following year, amicus briefs were down somewhat, but still comparatively high, as the Court accepted 14 briefs in non-unanimous decisions and 11 in unanimous cases. In 2004, the Court accepted eight amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, but 16 in unanimous ones. The following year, the Court accepted nine briefs in non-unanimous decisions and 19 in unanimous cases. Amicus briefs dropped sharply in 2006, to four in non-unanimous cases and three in unanimous ones, but were up somewhat the following year. Although the Court accepted only one amicus brief in a non-unanimous criminal decision, it accepted 25 in unanimous cases.

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We report the average number of amicus briefs per case in Table 121 below. We see that amicus briefs are quite rare across the spectrum of criminal cases. In 2000, the Court averaged only 0.25 amicus briefs for each criminal case. In 2001, the Court accepted 0.47 briefs per case. The following year, the Court accepted 0.9 briefs per case. Between 2003 and 2005, the average number of amicus briefs per case was flat – 0.4 in 2003, 0.33 in 2004 and 0.47 in 2005. In 2006, amicus briefs fell to almost nothing – an average of 0.13 per case. The following year, the average returned to its trend level, as the Court received 0.43 amicus briefs for each criminal case. 

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Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to the Court’s experience with amicus briefs between 2008 and 2015.