Citation Process for California Supreme Court Opinions

On the NOCALL list today was an interesting posting from Kerry Shoji, Paralegal/Research Analyst.

Kerry had recently asked questions on the NOCALL list about the citation process for the California Supreme Court.  Kerry then passed the questions along to the experts, Fran Jones, Director of Library Services, California Judicial Center Library and Edward Jessen, Reporter of Decisions.

Below is the text of Kerry’s questions and Mr. Jessen’s responses. [Reproduced with the permission Kerry Shoji and Edward Jessen.]

“How can you find out a California Supreme Court citation on a recently decided case?  I have the LEXIS citation, but I am curious:

1) How the official reporter volume/page number for the citation is assigned?

The California Official Reports publisher assigns volumes and page numbers because it is essentially a byproduct of the print composition process, and deadlines preclude much involvement in this function by the Reporter of Decisions.  But the publisher is contractually required to print opinions in the order received, and there are contractual requirements for the pagination of volumes.

2) How long does it take to go from slip opinion to the bound opinion?

For example, Official Reports advance pamphlet No. 16 will contain all published opinions filed between 5/17/10 and 5/25/10, and will be issued on 6/17/10.  Promptness is regulated by the Official Reports publication contract.*

Citations for opinions in that pamphlet, however, will be available on LexisNexis by approximately June 11.

3) How one can determine the official citation once bound?

Bound volumes, as a general rule, publish about 10 to 12 months after the last pamphlet issues with opinions  for a particular volume.  Citations, however, never change between advance pamphlets and bound volumes, except that superseded opinions (review granted, depublished, or rehearing granted) are omitted.

4) Do all the Westlaw or Lexis electronic references get converted to the official citation once the bound version is issued?

For the California Official Reports, there are several points in the editorial process leading to the final version of opinions in the bound volumes at which this office or the publisher would “convert” a Lexis or Westlaw cite to another California opinion to the Official Reports cite.  The LexisNexis version of that opinion would also then receive the Official Reports cite in place of the Lexis or Westlaw cite.  I cannot speak to what Westlaw would do in this situation because it is not the official version of opinions and we do not control content in the way we do for opinions on LexisNexis.”

*Special note: Peter W. Martin, Cornell Law School, has published in his Access to Law site many of the contracts between State courts and law report publishers, including California (2003).  There is also a great table showing these contracts, too.