The Supreme Court is California’s highest court. It can review cases decided by the Courts of Appeal. Certain types of cases go directly to the Supreme Court and are not heard first in the Court of Appeal. These cases can include “death penalty” appeals and “disciplinary” cases involving judges or lawyers.
The Court conducts regular sessions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Sometimes, the Court holds special sessions in other cities in California.
When the Supreme Court decides which cases it will review, the Court focuses on significant legal issues that are important to the State of California. In recent years, with over 9 million cases filed in the state of California annually, the Supreme Court has issued in opinion in 85 to 115 opinions each year. When the Supreme Court of California makes a decision, it impacts all of the lower courts in California and effects the lives of all California residents.
The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of California and 6 associate justices. Here, at least four must agree on the final decision. All other State courts in California must follow a decision of the California Supreme Court. Decisions of the Supreme Court are published in the California Official Reports, which can be found on the California Courts website at www.courts.ca.gov.
Supreme Court justices are appointed by the Governor of California, after being reviewed by the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, and being confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. These judges serve for a 12-year term. At the end of the term, the voters must confirm them again. The justices that sit on the Supreme Court of California must be lawyers. They must have passed the California Bar Examination or have served as a judge of a court of record in California for 10 years prior to their appointment.
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