In California, the rules regarding publication of appellate court opinions are quite complex. This guide is intended to provide the researcher with a general understanding of the applicable rules as well as information on how to determine whether a particular appellate case can be cited as legal authority.
In general, an opinion of a California Court of Appeal or the appellate division of the Superior Court can be cited as authority only if it has been certified for publication or ordered officially published (Rule 8.1115, California Rules of Court).† There are two exceptions to this rule. An unpublished (or “depublished”) decision can be cited or relied upon only if:
When an opinion is depublished (also called “superseded”), it may still appear in the official advance sheets but is omitted from the official bound reports.
†All opinions of the California Supreme Court are officially published (CRC Rule 8.1105). However, only about 15 percent of decisions issued by the California Courts of Appeal are published. Daniel W. Martin, Henke’s California Law Guide 182 (8th ed. 2006).