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November 30, 2010

Early assessments of SCOTUS oral argument in California prison overcrowding case

This morning the Supreme Court heard extended oral arguments in the California prison overcrowding case Schwarzenegger v. Plata (basic SCOTUSblog review here).  How Appealing has effectively here collected linksto lots of early media coverage of the argument, and Lyle Denniston's reporting here on SCOTUSblog starts his account of the argument this way:

In an argument that at times came close to being rowdy, the Supreme Court’s members jousted on Monday over whether to take on themselves the management of the way California provides medical care for some 140,000 prison inmates, or to leave that chore to a lower court that some Justices thought had done it right and some thought had botched the job.  In the end, the final choice seemed likely to reside with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who insisted that the lower court be left with a lot of discretion but who just as plainly showed he was not entirely satisfied with how it had used that leeway.

An argument that ran just a few minutes over the already expanded schedule of 80 minutes found Justices raising their voices and interrupting each other with some frequency as Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., tried only occasionally and gently to referee.  All of the Court’s members except Justice Clarence Thomas were warmly engaged, and seemed determined at times to drive the arguments of counsel in Schwarzenegger v. Plata, et al. (08-1233) — the first case to reach the Court on the power of the courts to order a release of thousands of inmates from over-crowded prisons under a 1996 federal law.

The full and lengthy transcript of the oral argument in Schwarzenegger v. Plata is now available here, and I hope to have my own (original?) comments on this argument if/when time permits.  In the meantime, I welcome reader perspectives and predictions.

November 30, 2010 at 05:38 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I don't how the Supreme Court affirms a decision made by a rigged panel in a case like this. Bottom line, if Kagan or Sotomayor votes to release prisoners, Barack Obama owns what they do once released.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 30, 2010 9:25:11 PM

I agree with federalist. Let the convicted animals die from lack of medical treatment and from abuse. Let them commit suicide. Who cares?

Posted by: anon1 | Nov 30, 2010 9:56:03 PM

One notes far more suicides and homicides take place than executions in California. Thank the lawyer for these alternatives to the death penalty.

The Justices are acting more like prosecutors than neutral appellate judges. They are disgusting in their advocacy for the criminal. Not a single mention of the V word by these rent seeking, pro-criminal, biased lawyers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 1, 2010 6:00:14 AM

The transcript is a fascinating read. Bottom line: The law seems to be on the side of the plaintiffs, and wasn't really even disputed that much by the state of California, but the Alito, Scalia, etc., don't want to follow it because they disagree with the policy prescription. The whole judicial activism thing apparently cuts both ways.

Also, this was the first time I understood the order didn't necessarily require "release" of prisoners, contrary to federalists' politicized rhetoric. They've already been reducing the population by sending prisoners to be housed in other states and that method also counts toward the required reduction.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 1, 2010 8:32:16 AM

Grits are good for eating and breakfast reading ... I look forward to listening to the oral argument but clearly this is a case with no easy answers. The rhetoric is another matter.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 1, 2010 9:01:44 AM

personally i think we could also do without sick people who make statements like this! why don't you follow your own advice!

"I agree with federalist. Let the convicted animals die from lack of medical treatment and from abuse. Let them commit suicide. Who cares?

Posted by: anon1 | Nov 30, 2010 9:56:03 PM"

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 1, 2010 1:40:05 PM

"The law seems to be on the side of the plaintiffs, and wasn't really even disputed that much by the state of California, but the Alito, Scalia, etc., don't want to follow it because they disagree with the policy prescription. The whole judicial activism thing apparently cuts both ways."

Give it a rest Grits. The law, such as it is, isn't prove a constitutional violation and prisoners go free.

"Also, this was the first time I understood the order didn't necessarily require 'release' of prisoners, contrary to federalists' politicized rhetoric. They've already been reducing the population by sending prisoners to be housed in other states and that method also counts toward the required reduction."

Sending prisoners to other states can be prohibitively expensive.

Funny how none of the libs in here mention the complete unfairness of having Judge Stephen Reinhardt on this three-judge panel. Reinhardt has already been caught misrepresenting the record (Belmontes v. Wong). Why should California's safety be subject to this lawless judge's whim?

The bottom line--to the extent this release happens, and Kagan/Sotomayor join the opinion, the victimization that results is on the hands of Barack Hussein Obama.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 1, 2010 9:32:44 PM

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