New Rule: California Appellate Opinions are Now Citable Pending Supreme Court Review

When the United States Supreme Court takes up a case the published Circuit Court opinion from which it arose remains on the books as binding authority unless, and until, it is reversed.

By contrast, under the traditional rule in California a previously published appellate decision was effectively de-published for good once the California Supreme Court elected to take the matter under review.  

Beginning on July 1, 2016, however, California Rules of Court, Rule 8.115 has been modified so that published appellate decisions will now remain citable after review is granted.  

While such opinions are under review, they will remain citable only as persuasive, but not binding authority.  Once the California Supreme Court has completed its review and issued its own opinion, the appellate decision will become binding again as to any point on which it was not overruled or rejected.

Finally, at any time after granting review the California Supreme Court can issue an order directing that some or all points of the appellate decision are binding, while others are not.

It will be especially interesting to see how this last part of the rule is implemented in practice.  It is conceivable that the Supreme Court will use this new authority as a convenient means to partially depublish and thus, in effect, selectively rewrite  lower appellate decisions.  



Law School Enrollments Continue to Plunge

 Conventional wisdom is that legal costs are consuming an ever-greater portion of the economy each year as Americans supposedly grow more litigious over time. But that view apparently isn't shared by prospective lawyers, who are staying away from law school in droves.

Indeed, the New York Times reports that new law school enrollment in 2014 fell to the lowest level since 1973. The 2014 enrollment numbers are also down 30% from just four years ago.  The reason is simple: “employment figures are dismal.”  In 2013, the article reports for example that “fewer than two-thirds of newly minted lawyers had found jobs that required passing the bar exam.”

The various experts who opined for the article blamed factors such as software automating routine legal functions and outsourcing to India. These reasons don’t seem particularly persuasive however.
Personally, my guess is that during the recession employers realized that lawyers need some experience to really add value. As a result, an over-supply of inexperienced and underemployed lawyers has been accumulating for several years. Until this backlog is finally absorbed it may be tough for brand new graduates to compete.