California 2010: The Courts and the Economy

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With Chief Justice George’s imminent retirement and replacement by California Court of Appeal Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and the high likelihood that the Governor who is elected this November may have the ability to appoint a majority of the court during his or her term in office, this is a unique opportunity to consider the work, impact, and role of the California Supreme Court.

The George court has been remarkable in its ability to achieve consensus, with the vast majority of its opinions unanimous. Thus, in many areas of the law, a changing composition of the court over the next four to eight years may not bring about much immediate change in the law. In this paper, we highlight a few other important areas of law (consumer class actions, property rights, arbitration, commercial speech, and employment) where the court has been strongly divided in recent years. In those areas of great importance to California’s businesses, workers and consumers, changes in the court’s personnel therefore could result in changes in the law that push the court away from its current balance.

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