Appellate Insights

Feb 18, 2019 Laurie J. Hepler
How Long Now?

Appeal to California’s intermediate court takes a long time. This affects everything from the interest that will accrue on a money judgment (10% per year in our state) to the parties’ practical ability to ride out the process.

Here’s a snapshot from FY 2016-17 (the most recent data available); it has worsened since, but should improve next year with most of the long-running judicial vacancies now filled.

  • For civil appeals, the median time from the Notice of Appeal to decision was about 18 months.  Appeals from demurrer judgments and other early dispositions usually go faster, while appeals from summary judgment take longer.
  • The most complex civil appeals — judgments after a full trial, or appeals presenting unusually knotty legal questions — took an average of 2-1/2 years from Notice of Appeal to decision.  But there was (and remains) huge variation among California’s appellate districts.  The fastest subdivision decided such appeals in just under 2 years, while the slowest took 3-1/2 years.
  • The Court of Appeal produced written opinions in over 9,400 appeals in FY 2016-2017, with the equivalent of only 101 full-time justices.  This helps explain why less than 10% of those opinions were officially published (about 17% when you segregate civil-only): The court invests more effort and time when creating precedent.

►  The practical message:  Litigants deciding whether to proceed through appeal should consider all the implications of a serious time lag.