|Striking a balance in California
|High court term easy to describe, but future rulings harder to
|By J. CLARK KELSO
|The one word that best characterizes the California Supreme Court's
1998-1999 term is "balanced." The court had a balanced caseload among types of
cases and subject matters, and with an increasing number of dissents compared to recent
years, there was greater balance in decision-making. This can make it harder for
practitioners to predict what the court will do in particular cases (one leading appellate
lawyer has commented that this is the least predictable court in years), but that is as it
should be. The Supreme Court performs its most useful function by settling the law in
close, important cases where there are reasonable arguments on both sides.
The court's caseload
was evenly split last year between civil (approximately 48 percent) and criminal
(including capital, 47 percent), with the remainder made up of State Bar disciplinary
matters and a couple of cases involving the Commission on Judicial Perfor-mance. Capital
cases accounted for around 14 percent of the docket. These numbers suggest a healthy
balance in the court's diet, although we should expect over the next three to five years
to see a substantial increase in the number of capital decisions because of recent
legislation and efforts by the court to increase the number of attorneys taking capital
A grant of review in the California Supreme Court does not mean the appellant can
expect a reversal, which suggests the court is taking cases primarily because of the
importance of the issues presented and to resolve conflicts and not simply to reverse
results with which it may disagree. The court affirmed the Court of Appeals in about 44
percent of the cases, reversed in 41 percent, issued writs in 7 percent of its opinions,
and denied writs in 6 percent of its opinions.
It is fair to characterize the court's overall pattern of decisions as pro-government
and pro-prosecution. In civil cases where the government was a party, the government won
three-quarters of the time. The prosecution won about 84 percent of the time, and the
defense won about 16 percent of the time. On the civil side,
See SUPREME COURT
|Guilford will lead bar into new millenium
|Orange County attorney Andrew Guilford was elected president
of the State Bar last month and pledged to re-engineer the beleaguered organization.
48, will be sworn in as the bar's 74th president Oct. 2 at the annual meeting in Long
Beach. His opponent in the race was James Seff of San Francisco.
A business trial lawyer, Guilford is a partner with Sheppard, Mul-lin, Richter &
Hampton in Costa Mesa.
He served as president of the Orange County Bar Association, has been a member of the
Conference of Delegates and the Commission on the Future of the Legal Profession and the
State Bar, and chaired numerous bar committees.
He concedes his passion for the justice system and pledged the bar's support for an
independent judiciary, improved funding of legal services and increased volunteerism.
Above all, Guilford pledged to board members that he would work toward consensus.
|Boarding the Queen Mary to launch a new bar era
southern California communities, Long Beach was a peaceful, pastoral place in its early
days, inhabited by the Gabrielo Indians and divided into several Spanish land grants in
the late 1700s.
That bucolic existence is long gone, however, with more than 200 years
of development giving Long Beach today the distinction of being the second largest city in
Los Angeles County.
On Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, when hundreds of California lawyers arrive for the State Bar's
Annual Meet-ing, Long Beach will have a chance to showcase its metamorphosis from a
sleepy, oceanfront, agricultural community to a major metropolitan hub.
The four-day gathering will offer 156 MCLE courses and three non-credit one-hour
programs, giving members of the bar an opportunity to earn more than 20 hours of MCLE
In addition, local bar associa-
See ANNUAL MEETING