BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  1
          Date of Hearing:   May 6, 2003
                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                               Ellen M. Corbett, Chair
                   AB 1165 (Dymally) - As Amended:  April 29, 2003
           KEY ISSUES  :
          This bill, though a modification of their prior proposals,  
          continues the tenacious and long-standing effort of active Bay  
          Area attorneys Kenneth and Michael Schmier and Professor Stephen  
          Barnett of Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law to require all  
          state appellate opinions to be available for private publication  
          and to, under specified circumstances, be citable as court  
          precedent.  These counsel sponsored a similar measure in 2000  
          which was strongly opposed by the same parties, principally the  
          Judicial Council, the California Judges Association, the  
          California District Attorneys Association, and the Attorney  
          General.  That measure, AB 2404 by Assemblyman Louis Papan,  
          failed passage by a vote of 3-9 in this Committee based upon two  
          primary concerns.  First, that the proposal was likely an   
          unconstitutional incursion into the Supreme Court's  
          constitutionally-vested authority under Article VI, Section 14  
          of the California Constitution, which reserves for the Court the  
          power to determine which appellate decisions "it deems  
          appropriate" for publication.  And second, that such proposals  
          calling for publication and some measure of citation to all the  
          state's over 10,000 appellate opinions annually will cause an  
          unreasonable burden on attorneys and the courts.  This analysis,  
          while recognizing there are some differences in the proponents'  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  2
          current measure compared to their proposal in 2000, suggests  
          that the same concerns expressed by the Committee two years ago  
          are triggered by the present proposal as well, especially in  
          light of the Committee's receipt of an Oral Opinion by the  
          Office of the Legislative Counsel on April 25, 200, similarly  
          raising constitutional concerns.      
          In support of the latest version of this measure, the sponsors  
          take strong exception with any concern that it may be  
          unconstitutional, stating, among other things, that AB 1165  
          would in no way disturb the present system of publication, and  
          "Determining what effect case decisions will have on future law  
          is a legislative judgment, as is making the future law itself."   
          In opposition, the Judicial Council summarizes the views of the  
          bill's opponents as follows:  "Conferring precedential or  
          persuasive value on the many thousands of cases not certified  
          for official report publication would add nothing to the  
          development of the law.  On the other hand, requiring counsel to  
          search for and review all appellate cases, whether or not  
          officially reported, would place undue time and cost burdens on  
          litigants, their counsel, and the courts."
           SUMMARY  :   Seeks to ensure all final opinions of the state's  
          appellate courts are available for publication, and that  
          beginning next year, all such opinions may be cited as precedent  
          under the doctrine of stare decisis.  Specifically,  this   bill   
          1)Require all final opinions of the Supreme Court, of the courts  
            of appeal, and of the appellate divisions of the superior  
            courts to be in writing and made available for private  
            publication, in full.
          2)Specify that these opinions constitute precedent under the  
            doctrine of stare decisis the same as opinions published in  
            the official reports and may be cited as precedent.
          3)Make related, clarifying changes that all opinions of the  
            Supreme Court, a court of appeal, and an appellate department  
            of a superior court issued on or after the effective date of  
            the bill shall be made available to public and private  
            reporting services, electronically and without cost.
          4)Provide that all opinions of the Supreme Court, a court of  
            appeal, and an appellate department of a superior court may be  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  3
            cited to or by any court; and that opinions issued on or  
            before the effective date of the bill that have not been  
            designated for publication in the Official Reports shall have  
            no precedential value, but may be cited for any persuasive  
            value they may have, as specified.
           EXISTING LAW  : 
          1)Provides, in the California Constitution, that "the  
            Legislature shall provide for the prompt publication of such  
            opinions of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal as the  
            Supreme Court deems appropriate, and those opinions shall be  
            available for publication by any person."  (Cal. Const. Art.  
            VI, Section 14.) (Emphasis added.)
          2)Provides that all opinions of the Supreme Court shall be  
            published in the Official Reports.  (Rule of Court 976.)
          3)Provides that an opinion of a Court of Appeal or appellate  
            division of the superior court may be published only if it  
            meets one of the following standards or the Supreme Court  
            orders it published:
             a)   The opinion establishes a new rule of law, applies an  
               existing rule to a set of facts significantly different  
               from those stated in published opinions, or modifies or  
               criticizes an existing rule;
             b)   The opinion resolves or creates an apparent conflict in  
               the law;
             c)   The opinion involves a legal issue of continuing public  
               interest; or
             d)   The opinion makes a significant contribution to legal  
               literature by reviewing either the development of a common  
               law rule or the legislative or judicial history of a  
               provision of a constitution, statute, or other written law.  
                (Rule of Court 976.)
          4)Provides that a court may certify for publication any part of  
            an opinion that meets the standard for publication in Rule  
            976(b).  (Rule of Court 976.1.)
          5)Provides that an opinion of a Court of Appeal or an appellate  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  4
            department of the superior court that is not certified for  
            publication may not be cited or relied on by a court or party  
            in any action or proceeding except:   (1) when the opinion is  
            relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata,  
            or collateral estoppel or (2) when the opinion is relevant to  
            a criminal or disciplinary action or proceeding because it  
            states reasons for a decision affecting the same defendant or  
            respondent in another action or proceeding.  (Rule of Court  
          6)Provides a process for requesting publication of unpublished  
            opinions and for requesting depublication of published  
            opinions.  (Rules of Court 978 and 979.)
          7)Provides that such opinions of the Supreme Court, the courts  
            of appeal and the appellate divisions of the superior courts  
            as the Supreme Court may deem expedient shall be published in  
            the official reports.  (Government Code section 68902.)
          8)Held, in Schmier v. Supreme Court (2002) 78 Cal.App.4th 703,  
            that "The broad constitutional and legislative authority  
            granting the Supreme Court selective publication discretion  
            manifests a policy that California's highest court, with its  
            supervisory powers over lower courts, should oversee the  
            orderly development of decisional law, giving due  
            consideration to such factors as (a) 'the expense, unfairness  
            to many litigants, and chaos in precedent research,' if all  
            Court of Appeal opinions were published, and (b) whether  
            unpublished opinions would have the same precedential value as  
            published opinions."  (Id. at p. 708.) 
           FISCAL EFFECT  :   As currently in print, this bill is keyed  
           COMMENTS  :  This bill, though a modification of their prior  
          proposals, continues the effort of active Bay Area attorneys  
          Kenneth and Michael Schmier and Professor Stephen Barnett of  
          Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law to require all state  
          appellate opinions to be available for private publication and  
          to, under specified circumstances, be citable as court  
          precedent.  These counsel sponsored a similar measure in 2000  
          which failed passage by a vote of 3-9.
           Constitutional Requirement that the Supreme Court Determine  
          Which Cases Should be Published  .  Article VI, Section 16 of the  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  5
          California Constitution originally provided:  "The Legislature  
          shall provide for the speedy publication of such opinions of the  
          supreme court and of the district courts of appeal as the  
          supreme court may deem expedient, and all opinions shall be free  
          for publication by any person."  In 1966, Article VI, regarding  
          the judiciary, was revised.  Section 16, in particular, was  
          renumbered as Section 14 and revised to read:  "The Legislature  
          shall provide for the prompt publication of such opinions of the  
          Supreme Court and courts of appeal as the Supreme Court deems  
          appropriate, and those opinions shall be available for  
          publication by any person."  
           This Bill is About Citability, Not Depublication  .  As mentioned  
          above, the bill does not directly amend the Supreme Court's  
          ability to determine which opinions should be available for  
          publication.  Instead, the bill provides that all opinions be  
          available for publication, with diverse new rules of citability  
          depending upon the enactment date of the bill.  The issue this  
          bill raises then is whether all final opinions of the courts of  
          appeal and appellate divisions of the superior courts ultimately  
          should be citable as precedent after the enactment date of the  
          bill, i.e., commencing next January.  It does not directly limit  
          the ability of the Supreme Court to depublish cases, so for  
          those who focus on that concern, this is not the bill.
           Selective Publication in Other States  .  California, like 22  
          other states, has a system of selective publication of the  
          decisions of the Court of Appeal and the appellate divisions of  
          the Superior Court.  There are eight states with rules that  
          require that all intermediate appellate court opinions be  
          published in the official reports.  The remaining states have  
          rules that fall somewhere in between.  In the eight states that  
          require publication of all appellate court opinions, the court  
          has the ability to determine that the disposition of the case  
          requires something other than an opinion, for example, a  
          decision or memorandum opinion or per curiam opinion.  (C.  
          Flango and D. Rottman, Appellate Court Procedures,  
          (Williamsburg, Va:  National Center for State Courts, 1998)  
           Opinions By the Office of the Legislative Counsel and the  
          Attorney General's Office that Bill Likely to Be Found  
          Unconstitutional:   As noted above, the Committee, faced with  
          another proposal addressing the issue of citability and a debate  
          over the Supreme Court's authority under Article VI, Section 14,  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  6
          asked the Office of the Legislative Counsel for an oral opinion  
          whether this measure might violate the Court's constitutional  
          prerogatives.  According to the Office of the Legislative  
          Counsel in an oral opinion delivered to the Committee and the  
          author's office on April 25, 2003, the prior version of this  
          legislation dated February 21, 2003, which similarly required  
          appellate opinions to constitute precedent under the doctrine of  
          stare decisis, would indeed be an unconstitutional encroachment  
          into the Supreme Court's enumerated powers under Article VI,  
          Section 14 of the California Constitution.
          Though not a formal opinion, the Office of the Attorney General  
          also wrote the Committee that "It is our opinion that AB 1165 as  
          enacted most likely would be found to be an impairment of the  
          core power of the Supreme Court in violation of the separation  
          of powers clause of the California Constitution (Cal. Const.  
          art. 111,  3)."  
          Co-Authors  :  The author notes the following Members wish to be  
          added to the bill as co-authors should it be subsequently  
          substantively amended:  Assemblymembers Hancock, Koretz,  
          Longville, and Wiggins.
          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT  :   Stephen Barnett, Professor at Boalt Hall  
          School of Law, has spearheaded with the Schmiers this effort to  
          require the courts to make all of their opinions citable.   
          Barnett's own words succinctly and pithily summarize the  
          proponents' arguments that it is "time to lift the veil of legal  
          secrecy" on all court opinions.  He states among many arguments  
           The heart of AB 1165 lies in its simple provision that, from  
            now on, when a California Court of Appeal decides a case and  
            issues an opinion, that opinion, whether or not it is  
            published in the Official Reports,  may be cited  by attorneys  
            and courts in other cases... I daresay that most of the  
            California public would be surprised to hear that California  
            law now forbids attorneys to  tell a court  about cases --  
            indeed, 94 percent of the cases -- that the California Court  
            of Appeal has decided.  Our courts now are saying to lawyers,  
            in the words of Judge Richard S. Arnold of the 8th Circuit  
            Federal Court of Appeals:  
               We may have decided this question the opposite way  
               yesterday, but this does not bind us today, and, what's  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  7
               more, you cannot even tell us what we did yesterday.   
               ["Federal Appeals Court Decisions May Go Public," New York  
               Times, Dec. 25, 2002, p. A13.]  
           Assembly Bill 1165 cancels this message; it would allow  
            lawyers to tell courts "what [they] have done yesterday." The  
            bill thus would bring into the light of judicial day the 94  
            percent of California Court of Appeal opinions that may not  
            now be mentioned in a California court, no matter how  
            important an attorney considers them to be to her client's  
           The bill says nothing about the precedential weight, if any,  
            to be given to these unpublished opinions.  That question  
            would be left to the courts to which the opinions are cited.   
            Court of Appeal opinions in California are not binding on  
            other Courts of Appeal in any event, so these opinions would  
            not be "binding" precedents for other Courts of Appeal.  The  
            courts would decide whether they are binding precedents for  
            trial courts (and the courts would be free to lay down other  
            principles concerning the weight to be given to these  
            opinions).  This approach is modeled after that which exists  
            ... in Texas and Ohio.
          The Committee for the Rule of Law also wrote the Committee in  
          support of the bill stating that "Even if a never overruled,  
          prior decision of our California Court of Appeal would exonerate  
          us from civil or criminal liability, we are now prohibited to  
          mention this decision in California state courts when the  
          decision was ordered "Not Published" by the judges who wrote it  
          (Cal. Court Rule 977)...  Virtually all legal scholars that have  
          considered this issue and many judges agree court rules that  
          prohibit citation of unpublished opinions, like Rule 977, create  
          unpredictability and randomness, remove accountability and  
          debase the rule of law."
           ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION  :   The Judicial Council continues its  
          years-long opposition to these measures, arguing that:
               The current rules for publication and citability best  
               serve the public interest.  Pursuant to the California  
               Constitution, the California Rules of Court, Rule 976,  
               establish the grounds for publication of appellate  
               opinions in the official reports... All other  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  8
               appellate cases are available to the public from both  
               the clerk of the court and the courts' website.   
               Moreover, these cases are already privately  
               publishable and indeed are published in unofficial  
               reports.  However, they cannot be cited as binding  
               precedent nor can they be cited for persuasive  
               value...  Conferring precedential or persuasive value  
               on the many thousands of cases not certified for  
               official report publication would add nothing to the  
               development of the law.  On the other hand, requiring  
               counsel to search for and review all appellate cases,  
               whether or not officially reported, would place undue  
               time and cost burdens on litigants, their counsel, and  
               the courts.
          The California Judges Association also opposes the bill, citing  
          the following reasons:
                     The bill would create an unconstitutional statute.
                     The number of opinions published in California is  
                 already staggering.  Publication of all written appellate  
                 opinions would promote obfuscation and increase the  
                 complexity of judicial decision-making.
                     Precedential use of all opinions for stare decisis  
                 purposes would monumentally increase costs of litigation  
                 both for the judiciary and for the legal community.   
                 (Both lawyers and courts would require costly and complex  
                 new legal research mechanisms.)
          In opposition to the bill, the California District Attorneys  
          Association (CDAA) states: 
               The flood of published opinions resulting from this  
               legislation would create tremendous problems in the  
               litigation of criminal cases.  The body of applicable  
               case-law would expand dramatically, requiring  
               practitioners to undertake the virtually impossible  
               task of, at a minimum, becoming aware of all such  
               cases, if not actually reading them.  Moreover, it  
               would require prosecutor and defense offices to  
               subscribe to all private publishing services at  
               considerable public expense.  CDAA strongly believes  
               that discretion whether to publish appellate decisions  
               soundly and appropriately rests with the California  
               Supreme Court.  The Court performs admirable work  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  9
               cuffing out those cases warranting publication and  
               avoiding the unnecessary publication of those that do  
          The Attorney General's Office also opposes the bill,  
          stating that in addition to the fact that the bill would  
          "most likely would be found to be an impairment of the core  
          power of the Supreme Court in violation of the separation  
          of powers clause of the California Constitution (Cal.  
          Const. art. 111,  3):"  
               We also believe that opening all opinions of the  
               courts of appeal and the superior court appellate  
               departments to citation as precedent dilutes the  
               well-established and vital body of precedential case  
               law for no useful purpose... Under current estimates  
               less than 10% of decisions of the courts of appeal are  
               published.  Based on our experience in handling  
               numerous appellate court cases, this office believes  
               that the reason the vast majority of the appellate  
               decisions are not published is because they do not:   
               (1) establish a new rule of law, criticize or modify  
               an existing an existing rule or apply an existing rule  
               to a set of facts significantly different from those  
               stated in published opinions, (2) resolve or create an  
               apparent conflict in the law, (3) involve an issue of  
               continuing public interest, or (4) make a significant  
               contribution to legal literature by reviewing  
               development of the common law or the legislative or  
               judicial history of a constitution provision, statute  
               or other written law.  In other words, they have no  
               precedential value as a matter of fact.  This  
               determination not to publish was made in most cases by  
               the jurists who decided the case.  Interested parties  
               who believe a court overlooked the significance of a  
               decision may petition the court rendering the decision  
               and the Supreme Court to reconsider the original  
               determination of the precedential value of a case.   
               Unless there is reason to believe that many truly  
               precedential decisions are not being published, there  
               is no reason to require the publication of decisions  
               that add nothing to the body of law supporting the  
               rule of stare decisis.
               On the other hand, if AB 1165 were to pass, to ensure  
                                                                  AB 1165
                                                                  Page  10
               no relevant precedent was missed, attorneys would need  
               to search a huge body of case law knowing that the  
               vast majority of cases are valueless as precedent in  
               the view of the very who decided them.  Legal research  
               would turn into a scavenger hunt for all cases  
               supporting or opposing a legal point even though  
               counsel would know many of the cases available for  
               citation would be of little, if any, additional  
               precedential value.  The costs of legal representation  
               in many cases would likely increase because of the  
               additional legal research required.
          Stephen Barnett, Professor of Law, Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley
          Jeff Adachi, Public Defender of San Francisco
          Committee for the Rule of Law
          Terence Hallinan, District Attorney, City and County of San  
          Many Individuals
          Attorney General
          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
          California Defense Counsel
          California District Attorneys Association
          California Judges Association
          Judicial Council
          Los Angeles County Bar Association Appellate Courts Committee
          Western Center on Law and Poverty
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Drew Liebert / JUD. / (916) 319-2334