Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: SCOTUS Dismisses Appeal in Plata/Coleman

This morning, the Supreme Court refused to grant cert in the Plata/Coleman case. SCOTUSblog reports:

The Court ruled that it had no jurisdiction, at this point, to review a lower federal court’s order that would require the state of California to release upwards of 40,000 inmates from its state prisons to ease overcrowding that the lower court blamed for inadequate medical care in the 33 prisons. The Court noted, in a brief order, that a new order has been issued in the case, “but that order is not the subject” of the present challenge. It also took note of the fact that the latest lower court order has been blocked pending “review by this Court” — an indication that the Court expects the state to file a fresh new appeal to challenge the order now in effect, issued earlier this month. Lawyers for state officials have said they would promptly file a new appeal. (The cases are Schwarzenegger v. Plata, 09-416, and California Republican Legislators v. Plata, 09-553).

What this means, in a nutshell, is that the new order issued by the court in October, prompted by the state's noncompliance with the original August 4 order, is now in effect. Since the Supreme Court has been asked, by the state, to review the previous order, it has no jurisdiction now that the previous order has been vacated.

Is this merely a technical issue, which will be sorted out once the state submits an appeal regarding the new order (have no doubt that they will), or does this mean that the Court is signaling its unwillingness to deal with the issue altogether? That's anyone's guess. I may be reading too much into this, but it seems to me that SCOTUS is not excited about the prospect of digging into the California issue. In any case, at least for now, population reduction is to go on as scheduled.

11 comments:

Carol said...

Thank you for clarifying this issue- I think many of us misunderstood.
Much appreciated!!

Hadar Aviram said...

Can't blame you, Carol. It's confusing stuff. I think the main takeaway from all this is that the battle--on both sides--is far from over.

JUSTATHOUGHT said...

Ive been following your blog for about a year and i wanted to commend you on all your tremendous efforts and research. I wanted to know if you could answer a question i have from todays SCOTUS desision on the inmate realeses...does that order afeest the people that are low risk and allready out on parole?Does that mean they are on summarry parole as of now or does that mean they are still on the traditional EVERYONES on parole etc....if you wish to answer me at my email then please do sir...if you want to answer it here thats great also...sincerely bc43_rocks

Hadar Aviram said...

Hi, JUSTATHOUGHT. At this point, the order doesn't really affect anyone, certainly not folks that are already out on parole. The decision is largely technical, and it basically means that the Supreme Court can't examine the overcrowding order unless the State submits a new appeal addressing the new version of the order. The potential population reduction might affect people on parole only insofar as making it more difficult to put people back in prison for technical parole violations. But it's still early days.

JUSTATHOUGHT said...

thank you for answering my question.Maybe i can elaborate a little more on the question i was trying to ask...on october 25 when the NEW SENATE BILL X3 18 SECTION 48..goes into law..and places all low level parolees on non revocable parole....am i off parole if i qualify as a low level by thier risk assessment guide lines on that date...OCTOBER 25TH 2010..if you could answer this id be ever greatful

Hadar Aviram said...

I'm not sure; that'll require looking into the state legislation, which we'll probably do in one of the next posts.

JUSTATHOUGHT said...

Again thank you for your efforts and for being kind enough to answer my question .. i have researched the bill as good as a laymen can lol..and x3 18 goes into effect on january 25th 2010 it on the cdc website on a new category i have never seem before thier ..and i follow it and your blog.. the website says the law goes into effect and all low level qualifying paroless will on that date become non revocable summary parole..from my understandingof that and the law going into effect ..do they not have no choice in the matter because it would be law then...?i ..dont know forsure yet ..my opinion.. but as a isaid im a laymen at any kind of law period..

Carol said...

This is really poor reporting, I think, or rather misrepresentation of the three-judge panel by Andrea Hoch, Schwarzenegger's legal affairs council. The article quotes: "The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today is a win for the state because it guarantees there will be ***no early release of prisoners *** while the three-judge panel's latest order is appealed," Hoch said in a statement, adding that justices opted to wait and consider the entire case. "We fully expect the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the three-judge panel's prisoner release order."

BUT- according to Michael Bien, the lawyer from the Prison Law Office in Berkeley who spoke at the 'town hall meeting' in Dec/November in Oakland, the notion of releasing prisoners early was NEVER on the table nor part of the three-judge panel. What his law office was requesting/fighting for was:

- a revision of the good-time-credits-system (CA doesnt give more good time points to people inside who go to classes, drug treatment etc-- thus there is not an early-release incentive for participation and people are stuck inside longer even if they are working hard and rehabbing themselves!!),

- parole reform so that there are alternatives to recidivism such as remedial structures (**and CA is the ONLY state that puts everyone released on parole),

- more probation resources (probation officers have admitted that fewer people would return to prison if they could do their jobs properly and have a lesser caseload),

- Sentencing reform (eg- even petty theft can count as a 3rd strike right now. also, convictions/sentencing are incredibly out of whack-- theft of $400 counts as GRAND THEFT bc there has not been inflation adjustment since the 70s)

So over a number of years, the PLO's requests/case would dramatically reduce the numbers of people caught up in the prison system. With such poor reporting and reporters taking as fact what state representatives SPIN OUT, it is little wonder that many people in CA really have little clue as to the reality or facts of this situation.

whats your take on all this Hadar?

Hadar Aviram said...

Seeing the SCOTUS decision as a victory for the state is clearly a misrepresentation. Nevertheless, it's not an astounding victory for the other side, either. It's more accurate to see it as a technical decision--or indecision--that postpones the battle to the next stage.

Tune in to California Report tomorrow morning on KQED radio, where I (and others) will be yakking about this.

Carol said...

What time? I am eastern time, but I would like to listen and put this out to all the Yahoo groups...I know they will be interested!!

Hadar Aviram said...

Carol, it's broadcast virtually every hour on KQED. Link to the broadcast is in the post above.