California's Top Court is Most Influential, Kentucky's is Least, Study Says

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The California Supreme Court is the nation’s most influential state court and the Kentucky Supreme Court is the least, according to a study of citations recently published in a law review.

California leads with the most opinions followed in a study of 65 years of decisions ending in 2005, the New York Times reports in a Sidebar column by Adam Liptak. California had 1,260 followed decisions. Next was Washington, with 942, and Colorado, with 848.

Many of the often-followed decisions dealt with emerging theories of liability. The most-followed decision, with 20 citations, was the 1968 opinion Dillon v. Legg. It allowed a woman to sue for emotional distress when she saw a car strike and kill her daughter, despite the prevailing legal theory that the driver owed no duty of care to the mother.

The second-most-followed decision, with 17 citations, was the 1976 opinion Tarasoff v. University of California. It found that mental health professionals may have a duty to warn potential victims or police about dangerous patients.

The study (PDF) was published in December in the University of California, Davis, Law Review.

One justice outside of California who commented on the study was, in the words of the Times, granted anonymity “to allow him to be petty.” The justice said the report was “presumptively suspect” because it was written by the chief supervising attorney of the Supreme Court of California and the reporter of decisions of California.

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