Analysis: Yolo County with a Higher Rate of Reversals by Third DCA Than Other Counties

Share:
Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600We have noted in recent weeks the seemingly larger than usual number of cases that have been overturned from Yolo County.  During the course of our reporting of these cases the question has arisen – “out of how many.”

The “out of how many” standard is a difficult number to assess for reversals, just as it is for problematic cases, prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions.  After all, one person in prison unnecessarily is too many.

At the same time, the number is necessarily quite low.  The standard for reversal is fairly high and generally involves a misapplication of the law or a violation of one’s constitutional rights.  Appellate courts have a limited ability to hear cases.

Indeed, in the four cases we just covered, we see reversals for the misreading of the law, for juror misconduct, for an improper finding of summary judgment based on a weighing of facts rather than law, and finally an illegal arrest and detention.

All of these, particularly the three criminal cases, are a cause for concern because they involve the judgment of a Yolo County Judge and the failure of that judge to rule properly.

A system in which the DA operates to win necessarily needs judges willing to overrule them.

However, in order to put things into perspective, we looked at the Third District Court of Appeals (3rd DCA) over the last 120 days.

Over that time we found that there were 224 cases listed among both published and unpublished opinions.

Of these, 30 were reversed (13%).  Of those 30, six of them were from Yolo (20%).

Yolo County had a total of 25 cases, with six of them reversed.  That is a 24% reversal rate, much higher than any other county in the 3rd DCA.

By comparison, Sacramento had 106 cases with 10 reversals for a 9 percent reversal rate.  Sacramento has four times the cases, but closer to eight times the population of Yolo.

San Joaquin county had 33 cases with 5 reversals, or 15%.  San Joaquin County had more cases but fewer reversals.  San Joaquin county has nearly 700,000 residents compared to 200,000 for Yolo County.

These numbers, again taken over a limited period, suggest that Yolo County has both a higher percentage of appeals heard and a higher percentage of reversals than comparable counties.

It is also worth noting that in addition to six reversals, there were seven cases of the 25 affirmed with modification.  That means that more than half the cases reviewed by the court were either reversed altogether or affirmed with modification.

120 days is hardly conclusive and not even long enough to show a clear trend.  But it is worth noting, when we look at the numbers, that Yolo County seems to get more appeals heard (which is itself a standard and a barrier), and more of those that are heard are overturned.

We won’t draw too broad a conclusion from this limited set of data, but this does address people’s questions about “out of how many.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

13 thoughts on “Analysis: Yolo County with a Higher Rate of Reversals by Third DCA Than Other Counties”

  1. kathryndruliner

    My experience is that the Court of Appeals grows weary of [in what I have seen in Sacramento] a single judge making repeated arrogant or ignorant mockery of the law and sends a message by reversing his/her convictions. Sometimes there appear to be something of a cummulative slap on the wrist to try to get the attention of the judicial officer.

    Taken alone, the pandering case looks like it would not have been reversed in any other context. Taken alone, it appears Judge Fall was reasonable in his approach, the evidence of guilt appeared overwhelming and that is usually always enough for the Court of Appeals to be deferential to the trial judge.

    I suspect, but it is only a guess, that the Court of Appeal is sending a message to Yolo County. Think about the state Budge crisis. Think about all the wasted money on acquittals and retrials with no convictions. Add to that the money that will be spend, many thousands of dollars on the Death Penalty appeals for the man who had 2 sacramento attorneys who challenged Judge Mock for not disclosing he was married to Ann Hurd. And the money the State already paid when Judge Mock, the DA and the indigent defendant (state paid) attorneys litigated the issue during trial. That issue was raised prior to the evidence starting and all the trial judge had to do was send the case to another Yolo County Judge to save all the money.

    Add the Noori case and the Federal Lawsuit against Detective Beasley and the Davis Police Department. The Noori young men were forced to undergo a 2 month rape trial, were acquitted in one day and the taxpayers will pay the settlement — which seems certain based on Beasley’s misconduct.

    Perhaps the Court of Appeal is sending a message to Yolo County. After all, we all have noted that no one else can do anything about it– not the voters, not the Board of Supervisors, and at this point at least not the Attorney General.

  2. Fight Against Injustice

    David: Thank you for doing this extensive research. I had posted earlier on another article about the reversals from Yolo County. At that posting, I had only listed the decisions from the published opinions from the third district appellate court. Not realizing that one could also access the unpublished opinions.

    I am glad you have added the decisions from the unpublished opinions too because that now covers all the cases that are listed on the third district appellate website and gives a much better perspective.

    The findings still point to a judicial system that needs investigating and/or review. Somehow the checks and balances are not working as tightly as they are in other counties.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “We won’t draw too broad a conclusion from this limited set of data, but this does address people’s questions about “out of how many.””

    But there are other factors working here as well:
    1) Yolo has less in the way of resources than larger counties.
    2) This is only a 120 day window, which is admitted to be too small a sampling.
    3) Were the reversals in relation to errors by the judiciary bc of one single judge, or several different judges?
    4) Error can be the result of mistakes made by many, such as judges, the DA, defense, coroners, law enforcement, witnesses, etc.

  4. Alphonso

    “But there are other factors working here as well:
    1) Yolo has less in the way of resources than larger counties.
    2) This is only a 120 day window, which is admitted to be too small a sampling.
    3) Were the reversals in relation to errors by the judiciary bc of one single judge, or several different judges?
    4) Error can be the result of mistakes made by many, such as judges, the DA, defense, coroners, law enforcement, witnesses, etc. “

    All of that is true, however

    We only have one sample and for that one sample of time the Yolo Justice System failed to do a very good job relative to other counties. So this is a metric citizens should keep an eye.

    How can you conclude Yolo has less in the way of resources? I assume on a per capita basis they have far more resources than Sacramento. I think they would do a better job with fewer resources – currently they try to pursue too much because they have the resources to do so. The would be better if they were forced to prioritze and think more about what they are doing.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    Alphonso: “How can you conclude Yolo has less in the way of resources?”

    Just go to the complex of courthouses in Sacramento, that are even in separate locations, and you will get some feel for what I am talking about…

  6. Alphonso

    “Just go to the complex of courthouses in Sacramento, that are even in separate locations, and you will get some feel for what I am talking about”

    Again true, but Sacramento has 7X the number of people. Just look at the two DA’s offices Sacramento employess about 400 in their DA’s office while Yolo has about 100. So on a per person basis Yolo has 2X the number of people as compared with Sacramento. On a per headcount basis Yolo has many more resources. Sure there must be economies of scale which would explain part of the difference, but it is not a 2X factor.

  7. Fight Against Injustice

    ERM: “But there are other factors working here as well:
    1) Yolo has less in the way of resources than larger counties.
    2) This is only a 120 day window, which is admitted to be too small a sampling.
    3) Were the reversals in relation to errors by the judiciary bc of one single judge, or several different judges?
    4) Error can be the result of mistakes made by many, such as judges, the DA, defense, coroners, law enforcement, witnesses, etc”

    I agree with you that 120 day window is short, but that is all that is posted on the third district appellate website at the moment. We can watch what happens going forth.

    I also agree that error can be the mistake of the judge, DA, Defense, Coronors, law enforcement, etc. But I would hope that the judge would be able to inteven in most cases to address mistakes that are made. I also believe that the reason checks and balances are in place is to pick up mistakes before an injustice happens. Unfortunately, the checks and balances in Yolo County are not working so well.

    I disagree with your statement about resources. When I look at other counties the size of Yolo, I don’t see the reversals. Yolo has approximately 200,000 people. Both Nevada and Butte counties are similar in population, and neither of these counties have any reversals.

    In addition, I think that it is a terrible thing to say to someone who has been falsely convicted…..so sorry but our county doesn’t have the resources…..so sorry that our mistakes costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend yourself and you had to spend time in jail…..our resources aren’t enough to ensure justice????????

  8. roger bockrath

    Yolo County D.A.s Office has so many resources that they actually sent a prosecutor when I contested an infraction citation for having my dog walk away from my house for two minutes.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    rb: “Yolo County D.A.s Office has so many resources that they actually sent a prosecutor when I contested an infraction citation for having my dog walk away from my house for two minutes.”

    Whoa!

    Alphonso: “Again true, but Sacramento has 7X the number of people. Just look at the two DA’s offices Sacramento employess about 400 in their DA’s office while Yolo has about 100. So on a per person basis Yolo has 2X the number of people as compared with Sacramento. On a per headcount basis Yolo has many more resources. Sure there must be economies of scale which would explain part of the difference, but it is not a 2X factor.”

    I have to be careful what I say here (ethics requirements), but “resources” means many things. The more desirable slot for judges seems to be Sacto County. There is much more competition for those slots. So it is possible there is a better caliber of judges in Sacto County. In my experience before Sacto County judges – there were 7 family law judges alone – they were extremely knowledgeable, efficient, and fair (w one exception some years later on a case I was able to get overturned for my indigent client on appeal). Sacto County has a family law self-help center far beyond anything Yolo County even remotely has. And on it goes…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for