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It was a busy year for the California Supreme Court. As of Tuesday, the court’s seven justices had issued 124 rulings, compared with only 106 last year, 115 in 2002 and 104 in 2001. Ninety-four of the decisions were unanimous, 15 decided with one dissent, 13 by a vote of 4-3 and only two by 5-2. Justices Carlos Moreno, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Janice Rogers Brown authored the most opinions at 19 each, with Justice Joyce Kennard issuing the most dissents with 13. Interestingly, Chief Justice Ronald George authored not one dissent all year. Stephen Barnett, an emeritus professor at Boalt Hall School of Law, says the low level of disagreement made 2004 a “dull year.” He believes the court’s unanimity is a product of the chief justice’s philosophy. “The chief does not look favorably on dissenting votes in the Judicial Council [which he heads],” Barnett says, “and neither, apparently, does he do so in the court.” Barnett also speculates that the justices might have been together too long. Other than former Justice Stanley Mosk’s death in 2001 and his replacement by Justice Carlos Moreno, there have been no shakeups since Justice Janice Rogers Brown joined the bench on May 2, 1996. “They know each other’s minds, as well as their own, and they know that a stirring dissent is unlikely to change any votes,” Barnett contends. “The chief justice, moreover, will prefer not to see it, so why write it and why vote against the majority?” Among the rulings provoking little or no dissent were: Catholic Charities of Sacramento Inc. v. Superior Court (Department of Managed Health Care), 32 Cal.4th 527, in which the court ruled 6-1 that social service agencies affiliated with religious institutions cannot exclude contraceptive coverage from their employee health plans. Dowhal v. SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, 32 Cal.4th 910, in which they held 7-0 that federal regulations trump Proposition 65 in regard to warnings for nicotine-replacement products. In re Qawi, 32 Cal.4th 1, in which the court ruled 6-1 that mentally disordered offenders retain the right to refuse anti-psychotic drugs. And In re Marriage of LaMusga, 32 Cal.4th 1072, in which the court ruled 6-1 that a non-custodial parent trying to prevent an ex-spouse from moving their children need only show the potential for detriment to trigger a custody re-evaluation. Of the court’s 13 most divisive rulings — those with a 4-3 split — Barnett notes that five featured a semi-liberal majority of George, Werdegar, Kennard and Moreno. Those cases were: Metropolitan Water District v. Superior Court (Cargill), 32 Cal.4th 491, in which the court on Feb. 26 held that temporary workers obtained through private labor suppliers must be considered eligible for benefits and pensions under the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Cassim v. Allstate Insurance Co., 33 Cal.4th 780, in which the court on July 29 ruled that insurers could be held accountable for attorneys fees in bad-faith actions over contractual benefits. In re Marriage of Harris, 34 Cal.4th 210, in which the court on Aug. 23 declared constitutional the state’s grandparent visitation statute. And Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 04 C.D.O.S. 10557, and Tipton-Whittingham v. City of Los Angeles, 04 C.D.O.S. 10570, in which the court clarified, but refused to abolish, catalyst fees — which are awarded to parties whose suits result in changes beneficial to the public. Other major cases decided by the court in 2004 were: In re Jesusa V., 32 Cal.4th 588, in which the court ruled 4-3 on March 1 that a presumptive father’s biological claim to paternity doesn’t automatically rebut claims of a competing presumptive father. Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 32 Cal.4th 820, in which the court ruled 4-3 on April 5 that sheriffs are immune from certain claims under the federal Civil Rights Act if they are acting on behalf of the state. Wiener v. Southcoast Childcare Centers Inc., 32 Cal.4th 1138, in which the justices ruled unanimously on May 6 that property owners aren’t liable for third-party criminal conduct. Gerawan Farming Inc. v. Kawamura, 33 Cal.4th 1, in which the court ruled 7-0 on June 3 that compelled generic marketing programs don’t violate the First Amendment. In re Alva, 33 Cal.4th 254, in which the justices held unanimously on June 28 that a convicted sex offender’s lifelong registration for lewd conduct doesn’t violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Rojas v. Superior Court (Coffin), 33 Cal.4th 407, where the court ruled 7-0 on July 12 that all mediation materials are protected from discovery in subsequent litigation. People v. Brown, 33 Cal.4th 892, in which the justices ruled 6-1 on Aug. 2 that expert testimony on battered women’s syndrome can be used at domestic violence trials even in the absence of any prior abuse. Gates v. Discovery Communications Inc., 04 C.D.O.S. 10638, in which the court ruled unanimously on Dec. 6 that news organizations cannot be held liable for reporting criminal facts from public records no matter how long ago the crime was committed. And Robinson Helicopter Co. Inc. v. Dana Corp., 04 C.D.O.S. 11271, in which the court ruled 6-1 on Dec. 23 that the state’s economic loss rule doesn’t bar tort recovery for fraud. With an increase of 18 rulings over 2003 , the court has set the bar high for 2005.

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