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The California Courts of Appeal are the state intermediate appellate courts in the U.S. state of Californiamarker. The state is geographically divided into six appellate districts. The decisions of the Courts of Appeal are binding on the Superior Courts of California, and both the Courts of Appeal and the Superior Courts are bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court of Californiamarker. Notably, all published California appellate decisions are binding on all trial courts, (distinct from the practice in the federal courts and in other state court systems in which trial courts are bound only by the appellate decisions from the particular circuit in which it sits, as well as the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker or the state supreme court). Court of Appeal decisions are not binding between divisions or even between panels of the same division.

When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court of California, or if a Supreme Court justice recuses him or herself from a case, a Court of Appeal justice is temporarily assigned to hear each Supreme Court case requiring such assignment. When there are vacancies on the Court of Appeal, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court temporarily assigns a judge from the superior court to sit as a Court of Appeal justice.

All California appellate courts are required by the California Constitution to decide criminal cases in writing with reasons stated (meaning that even in criminal appeals where the defendant's own lawyer has tacitly conceded that the appeal has no merit, the appellate decision must summarize the facts and law of the case and review possible issues independently before concluding that the appeal is without merit). Such procedure is not mandated for civil cases, but for certain types of civil cases where a liberty interest is implicated, the Courts of Appeal may, but are not required to, follow a similar procedure. Most Court of Appeal opinions are not published and have no precedential value; the opinions that are published are included in the California Appellate Reports.

History

The California Constitution originally made the Supreme Courtmarker the only appellate court for the whole state. By the end of the 19th century, however, the Supreme Court was no longer able to keep up with the workload. Accordingly, in 1903, the Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment to create the Court of Appeal. On November 8, 1904, the electorate adopted the amendment.

The Courts of Appeal originally consisted of three appellate districts, headquartered in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, with three justices each. These first nine justices were appointed by the Governor.

Organization

Some of the appellate districts (First and Second) are divided into divisions that have four appellate justices, who are randomly selected to form three-justice panels for each appellate case, and whose workloads are divided semi-randomly to ensure even division of work. Some of the appellate districts (Third, Fifth, and Sixth) are not divided into divisions; for each appellate case, three-justice panels are semi-randomly drawn, again to ensure even division of work. The Fourth District is unique in that it is divided into three geographically-based divisions that are administratively separate, each of which works much like the Third, Fifth, and Sixth Districts. When the presiding justice of a district or division is part of the three-justice panel, he/she serves as the presiding justice on the case. When the presiding justice is not part of the three-justice panel, the senior justice of the three-justice panel serves as the acting presiding justice on the case.

First District

The Supreme Court of California's headquarters is also home to the First District
The California Court of Appeal for the First District is one of the first three appellate districts created in 1904 and is located in San Franciscomarker. Its jurisdiction is over the following counties: Alamedamarker, Contra Costamarker, Del Nortemarker, Humboldt, Lakemarker, Marinmarker, Mendocinomarker, Napamarker, San Franciscomarker, San Mateomarker, Solanomarker, and Sonomamarker. It is divided into five non-geographical divisions with four justices each:

Division One:

Division Two:

Division Three:

Division Four:

Division Five:

Clerk/Administrator: Diana J. Herbert

Assistant Clerk/Administrator: Susan Graham

Second District

The Second District's main courthouse in Los Angeles, which it shares with the Supreme Court's branch office
The secondary courthouse in Ventura for Division Six
The California Court of Appeal for the Second District is one of the first three appellate districts created in 1904 and has its main courthouse in Los Angelesmarker and the secondary courthouse, hosting Division Six, in Venturamarker. Division Six handles appeals from San Luis Obispomarker, Santa Barbaramarker, and Venturamarker Counties, while Divisions One through Five, Seven, and Eight handle appeals from Los Angeles County. Each division has four justices.

Division One:

Division Two:

Division Three:

Division Four:

Division Five:

Division Six:

Division Seven:

Division Eight:

Clerk/Administrator: Joseph A. Lane

Assistant Clerk/Administrators: Daniel P. Potter and Paul McGill

Third District

The Third District's courthouse in Sacramento
The California Court of Appeal for the Third District is one of the first three appellate districts created in 1904 and is located in Sacramentomarker. Its jurisdiction is over the following counties: Alpinemarker, Amadormarker, Buttemarker, Calaverasmarker, Colusamarker, El Doradomarker, Glennmarker, Lassenmarker, Modocmarker, Monomarker, Nevadamarker, Placermarker, Plumasmarker, Sacramentomarker, San Joaquin, Shastamarker, Sierramarker, Siskiyoumarker, Suttermarker, Tehamamarker, Trinitymarker, Yolo, and Yubamarker. It has 11 justices and is not divided into divisions.

Justices:



Clerk/Administrator: Deena C. Fawcett

Assistant Clerk/Administrator: Colete Bruggman

Fourth District

The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District is unique in that it is divided into three geographical divisions that are administratively separate, which even have different case number systems, and yet remain referred to as a single district.

Division One

Fourth District, Division One's courthouse at Symphony Towers in San Diego
The Division One courthouse is located in San Diegomarker. It handles appeals from Imperialmarker and San Diegomarker Counties. It has 10 justices.

Justices:



Clerk/Administrator: Stephen M. Kelly

Assistant Clerk/Administrator: Kevin J. Lane

Division Two

The Division Two courthouse is located in Riversidemarker. It handles appeals from Inyomarker, Riversidemarker, and San Bernardinomarker Counties. It has seven justices. It is the only California appellate court that issues a tentative opinion before oral argument.

Justices:



Division Three

The Division Three courthouse in Santa Ana
The Division Three courthouse is located in Santa Anamarker. It handles appeals from Orange Countymarker. It has eight justices.

Justices:



History

The Fourth District was formed by a division of the Second District pursuant to legislation enacted sometime before October 16, 1929. The first decision made by the Fourth District was on October 16, 1929, in the case of Mills v. Mills, 101 Cal.App. 248, 281 P. 707.

Fifth District

The Fifth District's Fresno courthouse


The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District is located in Fresnomarker. Its jurisdiction covers the following counties: Fresnomarker, Kernmarker, Kingsmarker, Maderamarker, Mariposamarker, Mercedmarker, Stanislausmarker, Tularemarker, and Tuolumnemarker. It has 10 justices.

Justices:

History

The Fifth District was formed by a division of the Third District pursuant to legislation enacted in 1961 (Stats.1961, c. 845, p. 2128, § 7). The first decision made by the Fifth District was on November 21, 1961, in the case of Wheat v. Morse, 17 Cal.Rptr. 226, 197 Cal.App.2d 203.

Sixth District

The Comerica Bank Tower, which houses the Sixth District's courthouse
The California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District is located in the Comerica Bank building in San Josémarker. Its jurisdiction covers Montereymarker, San Benitomarker, Santa Claramarker, and Santa Cruzmarker Counties. It has seven justices.

Justices:



Clerk/Administrator: Michael J Yerly

Assistant Clerk/Administrator: Corrine Pochop

History

The Sixth District was formed by a division of the First District pursuant to legislation enacted in 1981 (Stats.1981, c. 959, p. 3645, § 5). The first decision made by the Sixth District was on December 13, 1984, in the case of People v. Dickens, 208 Cal.Rptr. 751, 163 Cal.App.3d 377.

See also



Notes

  1. See California Government Code Section 69100.
  2. Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court,, 57 Cal. 2d 450, 369 P.2d 937, 20 Cal. Rptr. 321 (1962).
  3. See, e.g., Reiser v. Residential Funding Corp., 380 F.3d 1027 (7th Cir. 2004).
  4. McCallum v. McCallum, 190 Cal. App. 3d 308, 315 n.4 (1987).
  5. The so-called Wende appellate procedure was upheld as compatible with the Fourteenth Amendment in Smith v. Robbins, .
  6. People v. Kelly, 40 Cal. 4th 106 (2006).
  7. Conservatorship of Ben C., 40 Cal. 4th 529, 150 P.3d 738, 53 Cal. Rptr. 3d 856 (2007).
  8. In re Sade C., 13 Cal. 4th 952, 920 P.2d 716, 55 Cal. Rptr. 2d 771 (1996).
  9. Schmier v. Supreme Court, 78 Cal. App. 4th 703 (2000). The plaintiff in this case unsuccessfully challenged the selective publication policy as unconstitutional. The court retorted: "Appellant either misunderstands or ignores the realities of the intermediate appellate process." The court went on to describe the variety of frivolous appeals regularly encountered by the Courts of Appeal, and concluded: "Our typical opinions in such cases add nothing to the body of stare decisis, and if published would merely clutter overcrowded library shelves and databases with information utterly useless to anyone other than the actual litigants therein and complicate the search for meaningful precedent."


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