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Only a small percentage of cases decided by the California Courts of Appeal are published each year. Unless the judges hearing the case think the facts and law in their decision are particularly significant, they will not certify a case for publication. Even cases that are otherwise significant may go unpublished because of staffing shortages in the court system.

Not for Citation. Unpublished cases can be used for informational purposes but cannot be relied upon or cited as legal precedent. As provided for in Rule 8.1115(a) of the California Rules of Court, courts and parties are prohibited from citing or relying on any unpublished opinion in any action or proceeding, except in limited circumstances as specified by Rule 8.1115(b).

Benefit of Unpublished Decisions. Even though they cannot be cited as precedent, unpublished decisions are good indicators of how judges on the appellate level are viewing particular facts and laws. They provide guidance for how HOAs should address similar issues.

Criteria for Publication. To become a published decision with binding precedent, courts use the following criteria to determine if the case:

  • Establishes a new rule of law;
  • Applies an existing rule of law to facts significantly different from those in published opinions;
  • Modifies, explains, or criticizes an existing rule of law;
  • Provides a new interpretation, clarification, criticism, or construction of a provision of a constitution, statute, ordinance, or court rule;
  • Addresses or creates an apparent conflict in the law;
  • Involves a legal issue of continuing public interest;
  • Discusses the development of a common law rule or the legislative or judicial history of a law;
  • Invokes a previously overlooked rule of law, or reaffirms a legal principle not applied in a recently reported decision; or
  • Includes a separate concurring or dissenting opinion, inclusion of which would contribute to the development of the law.

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Adams Stirling PLC