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Georgetown Law Library

California Research In-Depth

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law within the state of California.

Courts & Cases

A. Courts


The California Court system has three levels: the California Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal and the Superior Courts. These courts are governed by three distinct judicial bodies: the Judicial Council, the Commission on Judicial Performance, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

  • California Supreme Court The California Supreme Court is the state's highest court. It has authority to review decisions of the Courts of Appeal and its decisions are binding on all other California state courts. The court is seated in San Francisco, and conducts sessions in Los Angeles and Sacramento. The Supreme Court has one Chief Justice and six associate justices who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. For more detailed information about the California Supreme Court, go to the official court web site.
  • California Court of Appeals The California Courts of Appeals are California's intermediate courts of appellate review. California has six appellate districts: 1st Appellate District, San Francisco; 2nd Appellate District, Los Angeles; 3rd Appellate District, Sacramento; 4th Appellate District, San Diego; 5th Appellate District, Fresno; and 6th Appellate District, San Jose. The California Legislature apportions the number of judges for each district. There are currently 105 justices on the Court of Appeals. For more detailed information about the California Court of Appeals, go to the official court web site.
  • California Superior Court In 1998, California unified their superior and municipal courts into a single superior court with jurisdiction over all case types. Each of California's 58 counties has one Superior Court which are considered courts of general jurisdiction. The California Legislature determines the number of judges in each court who serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election. Superior courts have trial jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases. For more detailed information about California Superior Courts, go to the official court web site.


There are several directories containing California court system information:

  • Congressional Quarterly's Judicial Staff Directory
    KF8700 .A19 J83 (updated annually) , online through the CQ Political Contact Suite
    Provides contact and biographical information for the judges of the California Supreme Court, California Courts of Appeal and U.S. District Court. The directory also provides contact information for the California Administrative Office of the Courts.
  • Judicial Yellow Book: Who's Who in Federal and State Courts
    JK2679 .J8 (updated semiannually) , electronically available through Leadership Library on the Internet
    Provides contact and biographical information for California Court of Appeals, District and State Court judges.
  • BNA's Directory of State and Federal Courts, Judges, and Clerks
    KF8700 .A19 K56 (updated annually)
    It provides an organizational chart of the California courts as well as contact information for all California judges and judiciary staff.
  • Parker Directory of California Attorneys
    KFC77 .P37
    The 86th edition is a two-volume comprehensive guide to the California legal community. Volume 1 contains attorney and firm listings organized by county and an alphabetical name and firm index. Volume 2 contains contact information for: attorneys who handle alternative dispute resolution matters, certified court reporters, court contact information and litigation timetables (blue pages), Bar and legal associations, expert witness and legal service advertisements (yellow pages), certified specialists, patent attorneys, and attorneys with preferred practice areas.

B. Where to Find Court Opinions (Print)?

  1. California Reports. The official reports of cases determined in the Supreme Court of the State of California.
    • California Reports, 1st series (Cal.), KFC45 .A2. Vol. 1 (1850/51) - Vol. 220 (1934).
    • California Reports, 2nd series (Cal. 2d), KFC45 .A22. Vol. 1 (1934)- Vol. 71 (1969).
    • California Reports, 3rd series (Cal. 3d), KFC .A23. Vol. 1 (1969/70) - Vol. 54 (1991).
    • Official California Reports, 4th series (Cal. 4th), KFC45 .A24. Vol. 1 (1991) - present.
    • California Reports 1st through 4th series, [Internet] K562.2 .L44 Electronic. The LLMC Digital (Law Library Microform Consortium) is a work in progress that will ultimately provide access to the Reports electronically via the Internet. The current on-line holdings include the First Series, volumes 1-5, 7-9, 11, 14, 16-43, 45-60, 62-64, 66-72, 74-81, 83, 86-93, 95-103, 105-108, 110-121, 124-155, 157, 159-192.
  2. California Appellate Reports. The official reports of cases determined in the Courts of Appeal of the State of California.
    • California Appellate Reports, 1st series (Cal. App.), KFC48 .A21. Vol. 1 (1905) - Vol. 140 (1934). LLMC Digital has Cal. App. volumes 1-35, 37-59 available on-line.
    • California Appellate Reports, 2nd series (Cal. App. 2d), KFC48 .A21. Vol. 1 (1934) - Vol. 276 (1969).
    • California Appellate Reports, 3rd series (Cal. App. 3d), KFC48 .A22. Vol. 1 (1969) - Vol. 235 (1991).
    • California Appellate Reports, 4th series (Cal. App. 4th), KFC48 .A22. Vol. 1 (1991) to present.
  3. West's California ReporterKFC47 .C32. An unofficial, annotated compilation of Supreme Court and Appellate Court opinions of the state of California.
    • West's California Reporter, 1st series (Cal. Rptr.) - Vol. 1 (1959/60) - Vol. 286 (1991).
    • West's California Reporter, 2nd series (Cal. Rptr. 2d) - Vol. 1 (1991) - Vol. 135 (2003).
    • West's California Reporter, 3rd series (Cal. Rptr. 3d) - Vol. 1 (2003) - present.
  4. West's Pacific Reporter. An unofficial annotated regional reporter of cases argued and determined in the courts of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming. California Supreme Court cases can be found in West's Pacific Reporter.
    • Pacific Reporter, 1st series (P.), KF135 .P2. Vol. 1 (1883/84) - Vol. 300 (1931).
    • West's Pacific Reporter, 2nd series (P.2d), KF135 .P212. Vol. 1 (1931) - Vol. 999 (2000).
    • West's Pacific Reporter, 3rd series (P.3d), KF135 P213. Vol. 1 (2000) - present.
  5. Los Angeles Daily Journal  (Unofficial) The Appellate Report (an insert to the journal) provides the full text of published opinions from the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and the Attorney General. Selected full text from the U.S. District Courts in California and the State Bar Court are also published in the Daily Appellate Report. Editions from 1980 through March 2006 are located in Media 1st Floor NEWSPAPER Micro.

C. Where to Find Court Opinions (Electronic)?

    • The Judicial Council of California. Provides free public access to California's precedential appellate decisions. Searchable opinions from 1850 to present are accessible through its Official Reports page. The searchable Official Reports page is updated monthly and current to within 90 days of filing. The opinions that are not yet enhanced and edited for the Official Reports are accessible through a non searchable database of slip opinions. Unpublished opinions of the California Courts of Appeal are posted on the web site for 60 days solely as public information about actions taken by the Courts of Appeal.
  1. LexisNexis - Legal > States Legal - U.S. > California > Cases
    • CA State Cases, Combined
      California case law decided by the California Supreme Court from 1850 and from the California Courts of Appeal from 1905 and the Appellate Department of Superior Court from 1934. Contains unpublished CA Court of Appeal Cases from 1966.
    • CA Federal & State Cases, Combined Provides all available case law for jurisdictions relating to California. The Federal case law includes the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, as well as the U.S. District Court and Bankruptcy Courts for the State of California. The State case law includes the Supreme Court of California (since 1850) and the California Courts of Appeal.  Also included are officially reported cases of the Appellate Department of the Superior Courts.
    • CA Courts of Appeal Cases from 1905
      Provides California case law from the District Courts of Appeal and the Appellate Department of Superior Court from the State of California.
    • Unpublished CA Court of Appeal Cases - from 1966
      Provides unpublished and partially published California case law since October 2001, and other selected unpublished cases. California Rules of Court 976976.1 and 977 set forth the procedure for designating cases to be unpublished or partially published and the rules for citing such opinions.
    • CA Supreme Court Cases from 1850
      This Lexis database provides California Supreme Court opinions dated March 1850 through current. Including official and parallel citations from: 1 P. 1 (from 1905); 1 Cal. 1 (from 1850); 1 Cal. Rptr. 1 (from 1959).
  2. Westlaw - All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Cases
    • State Courts (CA-CS)
      Contains reported and unreported documents from the California state courts from 1850 to date. A document is a case (a decision or order) decided by the courts.
    • State and Federal Courts (CA-CS-ALL)
      Cases from California state courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, federal appellate courts authoritative in the Ninth Circuit, U.S. bankruptcy and district courts in California, and the Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation. Coverage varies by court.
    • Cal. and Cal.App. Cases (CA-ORCS)
      Cases from California state courts reported in California Reports, California Appellate Reports, and California Appellate Reports Supplement, the official sources for California state court opinions. Coverage varies by court. Includes documents released before June 30, 2003 for publication in the California Official Reports and documents released after June 30, 2003 for publication in West's Pacific Reporter Third, California Reporter, and "quick opinions" (cases available online prior to West advance sheets and which do not contain editorial enhancements).
    • California Reported Cases (CA-CSR)
      Cases from California state courts reported in California Reports, West's California Reporter, and Pacific Reporter. Coverage varies by court.
    • California Unreported Cases (CA-CSU)
      Cases from California state courts that are not officially published or otherwise released for publication by the court. Coverage varies by court.

D. Where to Find Information About Unpublished and Depublished Opinions?

  • Publication of Unpublished Opinions. California Court Rules, Rule 8.1120 describes the procedure for requesting publication of unpublished opinions. The request can be made by any person and must be made by letter to the rendering court within 20 days after the opinion is filed. The letter must state the person's interest and the reason why the opinion meets the standard for publication. All parties of interest must be served with the letter. The rendering court must forward the request, a copy of its opinion, its disposition recommendation and a brief statement of its reasons to the Supreme Court within 15 days after the decision is final if it is unable to grant the request before the decision is final. A copy of the recommendation and reasons must also be sent to all parties of interest. The Supreme Court may either grant or deny the request and must send notice of its decision to all parties of interest. The rule states that an order to depublish (i.e., not to publish) is not an "expression of the court's opinion of the correctness of the result of the decision or of any law stated in the opinion."
  • Depublished Opinions. California Court Rules, Rule 8.1125 describes the procedure for depublication of a certified opinion. It states the request can be made by any person by letter to the Supreme Court. The letter must be submitted within 30 days after the decision is final in the Court of Appeals and must state the reason why the opinion should not be published and must be served on the rendering court and all parties. The rendering court or any person may submit a response in support or opposition to the request within 10 days after the Supreme Court receives the request. The response must be served on the rendering court and all parties of interest. The Supreme Court may either deny the request or order the opinion depublished, and send notice of its decision to the rendering court and all parties of interest. The rule states that an order to depublish is not an "expression of the court's opinion of the correctness of the result of the decision or of any law stated in the opinion."
  • Citation of Unpublished Opinions. California Rules of Court, Rule 8.1115(a) states: "an opinion of a California Court of Appeal or superior court appellate division that is not certified for publication or ordered published must not be cited or relied on by a court or a party in any other action. Rule 8.1115(b) states the exceptions to this rule. It states: "An unpublished opinion may be cited or relied on: (1) when the opinion is relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, or collateral estoppel, or (2) when the opinion is relevant to a criminal or disciplinary action because it states reasons for a decision affecting the same defendant or respondent in another such action.
  • Unpublished Opinions of the California Courts of Appeal can be found on the Judicial Council of California's web site.

E. Where to Find Court Rules?

Official California court rules are no longer published in print. Current rules can be found on theCalifornia Courts Judicial Council site including recent rule amendments adopted by the Judicial Council, local court rules.

Unofficial, annotated versions of California court rules can be located in the following sources:

Deering's California Codes: Rules Annotated (Unofficial). KFC30.5.D4 R84

West's California Rules of Court: State and Federal (Unofficial). KFC992 .A199

LexisNexis > States Legal - U.S. > California > Cases > Rules

  • CA - California Court Rules (CARULE)
    Contains regularly updated California State Court Rules, as published in the Deering's California Codes Annotated
  • California Superior Ct. Local Rules (CASCLR)
    Contains regularly updated local court rules for over 50 California Counties (see file's Source Information link for full county listing).
  • Los Angeles County Superior Ct. Rules (LASCRL)
    Contains the local court rules for Los Angeles County.
  • CA - Local Rules of U.S. District & Bankruptcy Courts in California (CAFRUL)
    Contains local rules of the U.S. District Courts and the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in the state of California.

Westlaw > All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Court Rules & Orders > Court Rules - Individual States & U.S. Jurisdictions

  • California Court Rules (CA-RULES)
    Contains court rules governing state and federal practice in California. Also contains rules for local state practice in Los Angeles County, the Bay Area, Northern and Southern California, and contains the California Code of Civil Procedure.
  • California State Trial Court Rules (CA-TRIALRULES)
    Contains local county rules along with the Uniform Rules for the Third Appellate District. Contains local rules documents that include trial court rules promulgated at the local level.

California County Court Rules A list of local court rules is made available by the Judicial Council of California.

Other Useful Resources

  • Gerald F. Uelmen, California Evidence: A Wizard's Guide, KFC 1030.Z9 U33. A concise guide to the California Evidence Code, with practical illustrations through practice transcripts and comparisons to the Federal Rules of Evidence.
  • Douglas W. Kieso, Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law, KFC1172 .K54 2005. A part of the Criminal Justice: Recent Scholarship series, analyzes California's Three-Strikes law using perspectives from criminology, police science, sociology, victimology, and the law.
  • Sara H. Ruddy-project manager, California Criminal Law Procedure and Practice, 2005, KFC1155 .C3424. A Continuing Education of the Bar-California (CEB) publication is a practitioner's guide to criminal law and procedure in California.
  • B.E. Witkin, California Procedure, 4th edition. KFC995 .W52. A 10-volume treatise on California procedure, includes an index and is kept up to date by pocket supplements.
  • B.E. Witkin, California Evidence, KFC1030 .W5. A 3-volume treatise on California evidence, includes an index and is kept up to date with pocket supplements.
  • B.E. Witkin, California Criminal Law, KFC1100 .W5. A 6-volume treatise, includes bibliographical references and an index, kept up-to-date by supplements.