Hastings Law Journal


J. Clark Kelso


In this issue the Hastings Law Journal is proud to present a Special Report on the future of appellate justice in California. After a short Preface by the Editorial Board, we are honored to have two Introductions to the Special Report, written by Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas of the California Supreme Court and Bernard E. Witkin.

The centerpiece is a Report by Professor J. Clark Kelso. Professor Kelso was appointed by the Appellate Courts Committee of the Commission on the Future of the California Courts to study the appellate courts; his findings are published here in this Report. The final report of the Commission appears in a book, Justice in the Balance 2020, a comprehensive vision of the future of California courts and blueprint for change. Chapter 10 of Justice in the Balance, entitled "The Appellate Courts," is reprinted as an Appendix to this Special Report.

Professor Kelso's centerpiece, "A Report on the California Appellate System," proposes improvements for the appeals courts that will preserve three core appellate system purposes-correcting errors, enhancing predictability, and promoting public trust in the judicial system. Reforms that can be implemented today, such as the creation of a judicial council to recommend procedures to simplify the trial procedure, an increase in the public availability of opinions, and the utilization of easily accessible multimedia systems and modern technological communication devices, will create the framework for a more effective future for the appellate judiciary.

Following Professor Kelso's Report are four Commentaries which respond to various aspects of the Report. First, Professor Stephen R. Barnett's piece, "Depublication Deflating: The California Supreme Court's Wonderful Law-Making Machine Begins to Self-Destruct," discusses the unique California practice of depublication and illustrates how various actions of the California Supreme Court have drained the lawmaking force from the depublication process. Second, Professor Joseph R. Grodin, in his Commentary "Are Rules Really Better Than Standards?", questions the notion that appellate judges should adopt more bright-line rules as a method to alleviate their overburdened dockets. Third, Associate Justice George W. Nicholson, Court of Appeal, Third District, suggests ways in which coordination between trial and appellate courts can reduce the risk of appealable error following a guilty or no contest plea, and provides standard forms for that purpose. His Commentary is entitled "Administrative and Judicial Duties in the Trial Court After a Guilty or No Contest Plea." And finally, Dean Gerald F. Uelmen, in a Commentary entitled "Creating an Appetite for Appellate Reform in California," argues that adding court staff and increasing the number of courts in an overloaded system is not the ultimate answer. Instead, judges should be leading the reform movement with the capable aid and vital input of the bar and litigants.

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