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.