Biased Bench? California Supreme Court Consistently Unanimous


Concern is rising over possible internal bias within the California Supreme Court, which has ruled consistently unanimous over the past year, even when deliberating on particularly contentious cases.

Is the California Supreme Court becoming biased?

In terms of diversity, the composition of the California Supreme Court is as pluralistic as it gets racially, sexually, and politically. It is on par with the US Supreme Court in that regard. However, the Golden State’s top court seems to be incredibly homogenous in its rulings over the past year.

Almost 90 percent of the California Supreme Court’s rulings in 2020 have been unanimous, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The unanimity in 2019 was similar. The court ruled unanimously on 85 percent of civil cases, and on 75 percent of criminal cases. The consensus goes even farther back in time. Over the past decade, the court issued unanimous rulings in 75% to 80% of its cases, the Chronicle reports.

What’s driving the consensus?

According to the SF Chronicle, there are two things at play.

The first reason is that the court has a set of rules which encourages court justices to confer with one another at the early stages of every case, the Chronicle said. What happens during these roundtables was not been communicated.

One can postulate that these early conferences perhaps create early discussions outside of the courtroom. But it also possibly suggests an atmosphere for fostering a group mindset or groupthink, where one majority of people within the group may influence or hold sway over the minority.

The second reason is, according to the Chronicle, is that the court justices appear to have decided, in the majority of cases, that bipartisan agreements will enhance the court’s credibility with the public.

This leads to a lot of speculation. At first glance, any casual observer would read into such an implication that the court possibly could be more concerned with its own standing and public status, than it might be at serving justice. It could also mean that the court is more concerned with ruling in a way that pleases the community to maintain public trust.

Either of these scenarios would suggest the possibility that the court may not be following the exact letter of the law, or using the leeway the law provides and going in the direction of the prevailing winds to steer the court toward public credibility.

It appears that further investigation into the matter is not only merited, but paramount.