SAN FRANCISCO — The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a special session in July in an effort to reduce its substantial backlog of cases, Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas announced Tuesday.
In a brief statement, Lucas said that although the cases to be heard then have not yet been designated, the special calendar will consist primarily of re-arguments in cases left unresolved after the departure of the three justices defeated in last November's election.
It is expected that a large number of death penalty appeals will be heard in the four-day session to be held here starting July 6. There are nearly 400 civil and criminal cases pending before the court, including 171 capital appeals of which 30 have been argued but not decided.
The July session is to be one in what may be a series of special actions by the court under Lucas to break the logjam of cases and streamline some administrative procedures.
Shortly after he was sworn into office Feb. 5, Lucas called for a "fresh look" at the court's processes--particularly the time-consuming procedures used in death penalty appeals, which often take several years to decide.
Lucas called the July session part of a "continuing effort" to reduce the court's backlog.
The court suspended its regular schedule of monthly oral arguments in November, after voters defeated Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and Justices Joseph R. Grodin and Cruz Reynoso.
The court was able to decide 35 cases before the three justices left office Jan. 5 but left up to 60 others that probably will require re-argument.
Ordinarily, the court does not hold oral arguments in July or August. In the last six years, the justices have held four special sessions, mainly to hear cases requiring immediate action because they were related to forthcoming elections.
The court is to resume its regular schedule of oral arguments in a five-day session in Los Angeles starting April 6. An unusually large docket of 29 cases--including 19 previously argued but not decided by the former court--is to be heard.
Gov. George Deukmejian's nominees to replace the three outgoing justices--state Appellate Justices John A. Arguelles, David N. Eagleson and Marcus M. Kaufman--are expected to be confirmed at a state Judicial Appointments Commission hearing March 18.