CA Federal Court Threatens Gov. Brown With Contempt

In a strongly worded 71 page opinion, a three judge panel from the Eastern District of California has threatened California Governor Jerry Brown with contempt for failing to come up with a plan to reduce California's prison population. The court has given Brown and the state numerous chances. The Supreme Court denied Brown's appeal and he still refuses to comply.

The April 5 opinion is here. The docket with links to other court orders is here. [More...]

On January 8, 2013, Brown issued a proclamation that prison overcrowding is no longer causing constitutional violations of prisoners' right to effective health care. The court was not impressed.

That Governor Brown may believe, contrary to the evidence before this Court, that “prison crowding [is] no longer . . . inhibit[ing] the delivery of timely and effective health services to inmates,” will not constitute an excuse for his failure to comply with the orders of this Court. Having been granted a six-month extension, defendants have no further excuse for non-compliance.

If defendants do not take all steps necessary to comply with this Court’s June 30, 2011 Order, as amended by this Court’s January 29, 2013 Order, including complying with the order filed in conjunction with this opinion, they will without further delay be subject to findings of contempt, individually and collectively. We make this observation reluctantly, but with determination that defendants will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States.

Brown is also wasting the taxpayers' money. Yesterday, the court authorized fee payment to the Special Master, of $394,216.69 for services through January, 2013 (order here.) Check out this list of the parties who have entered an appearance in the case, to get an idea of what Brown's resistance is costing California in court resources, state employee hours and attorney fees.

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  • Display: Sort:
    So, Californians, what is the problem? (none / 0) (#1)
    by womanwarrior on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 04:47:53 PM EST
    With cover provided by the Court, why isn't Brown releasing lots of non-violent people?  Parole supervision has to be a lot cheaper.  
    I don't get it and need enlightenment.  

    Actually, many were released. And (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by oculus on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 07:53:27 PM EST
    many were transferred to local custody.

    not nearly enough to comply with (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 09:07:58 PM EST
    the court order, affirmed by the Supreme Court, directing California to reduce its prison population to not exceed 137.5 % of capacity. He claims its dangerous and that's baloney. As the court pointed out this week, releasing geriatric lifers is not dangerous and either is releasing non violent offenders. Brown is acting like he's still Atty General of Calif. instead of Governor. He's not the top cop anymore, and even if he were, as the court points out, Brown has to obey court orders just as does the lowliest citizen.

    From the opinion:

    In particular, despite the fact that 14% of California's misnamed "Lifer" population - which consists of over 30,000 inmates - are over 55 years old, defendants have taken no meaningful action to release elderly low-risk prisoners in this category.

    Although defendants object to the release of elderly Lifers on the ground of public safety,it appears that 75% of these Lifers have been placed in CDCR's lowest risk category, and the historical recidivism rate of Lifers is approximately 1% - in comparison to California's overall recidivism rate of 48%. See Weisberg, Life in Limbo, at 16-17.

    Moreover, elderly individuals are much less likely to recidivate as they are generally less likely to commit crimes. ("For most offenses - and in most societies - crime rates rise in the early teenage years, peak during the mid-to-late teens, and subsequently decline dramatically. Not only are most violent crimes committed by people under 30, but even the criminality that continues after that declines drastically after age 40 and even more so after age 50.").

    It is more than likely that defendants could reduce the deficit with respect to the 137.5% population cap by approximately half, without risk to public safety, were it to make the appropriate assessments and take the appropriate actions with respect to these so-called "Lifers" alone.

    Is a 55 yr. old felon too "elderly" (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:17:20 PM EST
    to commit a crime?  Doubt it.

    it isn't suggesting releasing all of them (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:37:14 PM EST
    just the ones that are unlikely to commit new crimes. Some were never violent in the first place. As the court explains if you will read the opinion, there are many doing life for non-violent crimes.

    The term "Lifer" incorrectly conveys the impression that any such inmate must have committed a horrendous crime in order to have received a life sentence.

    To the contrary, under California's determinate sentencing scheme, most Lifers are given a
    minimum prison term (generally 15-20 years), after which they are eligible for parole unless
    they are deemed a threat to public safety. Lifers include, for example, individuals who committed vehicular homicide - individuals who were extremely reckless when younger but are far less so having reached middle age or more.

    ....For most offenses - and in most societies - crime rates rise in the early teenage years, peak during the mid-to-late teens, and subsequently decline dramatically. Not only are most violent crimes committed by people under 30, but even the criminality that continues after that declines drastically after age 40 and even more so after age 50.").

    Have you read the opinion or are you just making drive-by comments?


    Is it coincidence that crime rates and violence (none / 0) (#13)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 07:26:29 AM EST
    track testosterone levels?

    Brown was able to balance (none / 0) (#14)
    by MKS on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 08:29:04 AM EST
    the budget here through a combination of a tax hike and drastic cuts to education.  Unlike the Federal government that can easily run a deficit because it has  its own currency, balancing the budget on the state level is important.

    I suspect Brown knows there is no way he will ever find the money to build more prison space, and letting 55 year old murderers go is not a winner either.

    And, I believe Brown is opposed to the death penalty, so he is not a lock-em-up-and-throw-away the-key kinda guy.  

    Perhaps the most important point was noted by Oculus--a lot of the low risk violent offenders have already been let loose early.....You would now be releasing inmates who were deemed too high a risk to let go last time....How close do you slice this issue of being a nonviolent offender?

    And, 55 is not old or dead.


    It surprises me the "originalists" on (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 12:04:54 PM EST
    SCOTUS do not defer to state's rights, as they seem poised to do in at least one of the same sex marriage cases.

    The malicious justice system (none / 0) (#2)
    by koshembos on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:51:40 PM EST
    Brown can release from jail but the courts send people to jail. Now the federal court has decide to blame Brown for what the court does. Nice.

    Jails are full because the American justice system is FUBAR. Stop sending people with a single gram of something to jail and the jails will be half empty.

    Of course we should release... (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dadler on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:22:39 PM EST
    ...non-violent drug offenders, but a federal government engaged in financial racketeering and fraud regarding sovereignty in its own fiat currency, a federal government telling wretched degenerate lies to its citizens about money, pretending financial bankruptcy is a possibility when it is not factually possible, a federal government punishing the least among us for its own corruption, well, that government has no right dictating much of anything to anyone. Even when I agree with it, I cannot respect it on the whole.

    dadler (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:20:24 PM EST
    The lawsuit is in federal court but its about California's laws and prison system, not the federal system.

    Is this Brown being.;.. (none / 0) (#12)
    by unitron on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 01:01:49 AM EST
    ...all "lock 'em up and throw away the key", or is it a case of not enough in the state budget to actually handle the problem of either building more prison space or being able to have enough parole officers and other "keep track of them" personnel, not to mention where are these people going to live when they get out?

    Is he caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea on this?

    This controversy is ridiculous. (none / 0) (#16)
    by NYShooter on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 12:04:22 AM EST
    Coming up with a list of candidates for early release in the largest state of a country that incarcerates more people than any other on earth should be the simplest "problem" to fix there is. From choosing those whose parole dates are upcoming soon, to forming a committee of judges who have expressed their disagreement with certain sentences they've been compelled to hand down due to "mandatory minimums," how hard could it be?

    And, it's interesting to note that some here think only "murderers" are incarcerated in California.

    The only problem I see is the "push back" Brown may be feeling from the "Prison Industry,"  where more prisoners equals more (blood) money, and human beings treated as commodities like soy beans, or pork bellies.