The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 4, 2010
How the state Supreme Court reached its furlough ruling

100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWe don't know yet what the California Supreme Court will say about furloughs this morning, but we do have a sense of how the court reached its decision.

Here's a quick sketch of how the court writes its rulings:

• Once the court accepts a case, the chief justice assigns a member of the court to draft an opinion based on the documents filed by the litigants.

• Each justice states his or her response to the draft opinion. Some may write an opinion that agrees with the draft opinion, but for other legal reasons. Some may write opinions that disagree with the draft opinion. All of those are circulated among the justices, too.

• If there's no clear majority opinion, the chief justice sets the case for more discussion or reassigns the case to another justice who writes another draft opinion. If it looks like a majority opinion exists, the chief sets the case for a conference to identify whether it is ready for oral arguments.

• Once the court approves the case for oral arguments and hears them, it then circulates the draft opinions again to see if any justices have changed position. All the justices can revise drafts. Each time one is altered, all the justices review the changes. This process of revision and review can be time-consuming as the court refines final language.

• Once the decision is finalized, the court sets a time to file the ruling. With rare exception, those decisions are published on Mondays or Thursdays at 10 a.m.

For more much more detailed information about the process, click here to read the California Supreme Court's Practices and Procedures Booklet.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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