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September 2, 2009

California begins SCOTUS appeal process for federal ruling ordering prisoner release

This Sacramento Bee article details that California has begun the process for appealing the recent three-judge special panel ruling that called for a dramatic cut in California's prison population.  Here are the basics:

State lawyers said Tuesday they will try to take the issue of prison overcrowding to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than obey a court order to come up with a plan to reduce inmate population.  The lawyers, on behalf of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and corrections officials, are asking the three judges who issued the order to put it on hold while the state seeks a high-court review.  They say the state should not have to spend some of its precious few funds to create a plan that should never have been ordered in the first place.

Facing a $1.2 billion shortfall in the corrections budget, officials need to focus their limited resources "on safely implementing that budget reduction," the lawyers insist.

When a three-judge court like this one is appointed to hear a matter under the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, any appeal goes directly to the Supreme Court. Both sides agree that, if the high court accepts jurisdiction, it would be the first time it considered a case involving prisoners ordered released under the act.

In a motion filed Tuesday with the three judges, the state said it will wait until noon Friday to hear from them on a stay pending appeal. If the stay is denied or if they have not acted by then, the state will seek a stay from the Supreme Court, the motion says.

On Aug. 4, the three-judge court ordered the state to provide them by Sept. 18 a plan to reduce the population of its 33 adult prisons by up to 46,000 inmates within two years.  The system is operating at 190 percent of its 79,828 design capacity, and the judges found overcrowding is the primary reason care of sick and mentally ill inmates has descended to unconstitutional depths.

Tuesday's motion argues a stay should be granted on multiple grounds: The three-judge court was improperly convened; its finding regarding health care was erroneous; the order to reduce the population by more than 25 percent goes way beyond what is necessary, and since the order "is the first such prisoner release order to be issued under the PLRA," the Supreme Court should now have the opportunity to weigh in.

Thanks to Crime & Consequences, everyone can download at this link California's "Motion To Stay the Three-Judge Court’s August 4, 2009 Opinion And Order Pending Appeal and Memorandum Of Points And Authorities."

September 2, 2009 at 10:07 AM | Permalink


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What are the odds that the three judges were all Carter appointees?

Posted by: . | Sep 2, 2009 10:10:05 AM

100%, given that you can easily look it up.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 2, 2009 2:14:19 PM

The ex-chief judge of the Ninth Circuit picked the panel, I believe.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 2, 2009 3:05:38 PM

I literally meant what are the odds, after seeing they were all Carter appointees.

Posted by: .. | Sep 2, 2009 7:24:11 PM

ah... probably also close to 100%.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 2, 2009 9:47:10 PM

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