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September 7, 2009

When and how will SCOTUS respond to the California prison litigation?

As detailed in this San Jose Mercury News article, "California officials Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a lower court order that forces the state to quickly devise a plan to shed more than 40,000 inmates from its overcrowded prisons."  This filing came on the heels of the decision late last week by the special three-judge panel, noted here and available here, which refused to stay its order that California submit a prison reduction plan by September 18.  Here is more on California's SCOTUS filing:

In a 46-page petition to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles emergency appeals from the Western states, California Attorney General Jerry Brown asked for an immediate stay of a three-judge panel's Aug. 4 order requiring the state to submit its prisoner release plan within 45 days.

Judges on the federal court panel Thursday rejected the state's bid for a stay, saying they've been "more than patient with the state and its officials" in the years-long legal battle over conditions inside California's prison system.

But California officials say the court has put the state in an impossible spot by requiring it to come up with a plan to reduce the prison population by one-fourth by Sept. 18.  "Every day that the three-judge court's order hangs over California, it places enormous strains on the state's existing resources and creates intolerable anxiety for both officials and residents of the nation's most populous state," state lawyers wrote to Kennedy.

Meanwhile, according to this distinct article in the Sacremento Bee, the separate political fight going on "in the California Legislature over prison cuts is costing taxpayers millions per day as lawmakers debate changing tough-on-crime policies that have sent prison populations and costs soaring." As this article explains, the state's "fiscal crunch grows by $3.3 million per day because the state budget anticipated that a deal on how to cut $1.2 billion from prisons would be struck in July, not mired in politics for months."

In other words, everyone says for a variety of reasons that time is of the essence in these matters.  Thus, it would seem important for Justice Kennedy and/or the entire Supreme Court to move quickly to rule in some manner concerning this California prison litigation.  And yet SCOTUS is not an institution known for moving very fast on others' timelines.  Thus, I will be intrigued to see not only how, but when, SCOTUS responds to California's emergency filing.

UPDATE:  Over at SCOTUSblog here, Lyle Denniston discusses this case and provides this link to California's stay application.  The entire stay application makes for an interesting read, including the fact that Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin is listed as counsel of record for California.  Apparently, California can afford to hire a top-flight Supreme Court litigator despite its economic woes (and I cannot help but wonder if Phillips is giving the struggling state a dsicount or taking his fees in the IOUs the state was recently forced to utilize).

September 7, 2009 at 07:16 PM | Permalink


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123D. I can't understand anything more complex, and it is vital that all of you hear what I say.

Posted by: Redundancy Claus | Sep 7, 2009 7:35:55 PM

"And yet SCOTUS is not an institution known for moving very fast on others' timelines."

They moved pretty darned fast (Ginsburg anyways) on Chrysler (or was it GM?) bankruptcy stay.

Posted by: . | Sep 7, 2009 8:20:21 PM

I predict this conservative court will affirm the appellate court order to loose 1000's of vicious predators.

Why? To generate lawyer jobs. The rent trumps all ideology, and political positions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 7, 2009 10:36:38 PM

What's silly about California's response is that the head of their Corrections department already prepared a plan to reduce the prison population by 27,000 inmates in response to losing $1.1 billion of their budget. That plan already exists. Building on it, figuring out ways to lower the total 13,000 more IF the court orders it simply is not an insurmountable task.

All they have to do is come up with a plan by Sept. 18, not implement it. No one is saying they must reduce the number of prisoners by then.

What CA should be doing instead is preparing for the inevitable and investing in reentry services and community supervision infrastructure to manage the outflow, not circling the wagons to fight an outcome that their budget cuts will dictate even if the federal courts don't.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Sep 8, 2009 9:51:46 AM

Redundancy Clause, that's funny...and true.

California will gleefully go bankrupt before it frees inmates, just as America will maintain its global empire until it goes toes-up broke.

That's because California and American political leaders (like there counterparts elsewhere throughout the nation) would rather live under a bridge and eat at the mission than face weak-on-defense and soft-on-crime demagogues in the next election.

Posted by: John K | Sep 8, 2009 4:53:24 PM

John: The lawyer would rather have people murdered and neighborhood destroyed than to lose a lawyer job. The lawyer is in utter failure. Only the total absence of the rule of law could be worse. Some areas of our nation are more dangerous than Fallujah, thanks to the incompetence of the lawyer. One suspects a high fraction of false convictions across the board.

The failure of the lawyer is in stereo. He immunizes just about 99% of crime. When a criminal is convicted, the innocence rate may be as high as 50%.

When will the lawyer realize, it is time to go, to resign. Let people with a little competence manage the criminal law, someone less obsessed with procedures, none of which have any validity nor stem from the constitution, but from the Catholic Church Catechism of the High Middle Ages? Nothing from that time is appropriate for use today.

It is sad to watch lawyers in denial try to justify the current system. It reminds one of Rock Hudson, with AIDS, saying he felt gratified to finally be able to lose weight. His diet had started working.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 9, 2009 1:08:45 AM

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