The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board writes: Sacramento’s appeals court must be reformed. Some cases go undecided for as long as 7 years

  • The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento is one of the busiest courthouses in California. Yet even with a track record for filing a high volume of decisions, some of the court’s justices allow cases to languish for as long as seven years — an extraordinary failure that causes untold harm to the people trapped in the backlog.
  • Under national standards created by judges, court administrators, clerks and attorneys, 95% of appellate cases should be resolved within one year. In California, the average appellate decision can take as long as 18 months.
  • it’s clear that Sacramento’s appellate court is overburdened. It covers 23 Northern California county courts, which account for over 39% of the state’s trial court system. Each of its 11 authorized justices have 36% more cases than the statewide average.
  • over the last decade, productivity has sharply declined. According to Judicial Council of California data, the average number of Sacramento’s majority opinions per justice dropped by more than 35% since 2009-10 — compared to 19% statewide.
  • The 3rd District court is in desperate need of reform. Gov. Gavin Newsom could start by tending to one of his core duties as California’s chief executive and fill the long-vacant 11th seat on the bench.
  • It’s also been 21 years since the Legislature expanded the bench to 11 justices. Given Sacramento’s massive workload, California’s lawmakers should consider adding a 12th.