Justice Kennedy, the deciding voice in Brown v. Plata, is to tackle overcrowding once more, in responding to an emergency appeal from Gov. Brown to block the Plata panel to release more inmates and ease overcrowding. The L.A. Times reports:
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is in a position to decide — again — whether California’s overcrowded prisons must release more than 9,000 inmates by the end of this year, but at the risk of sending some violent criminals back to the streets.
. . .
Gov. Jerry Brown is now asking Kennedy and the high court to block a pending order from a special three-judge U.S. District Court panel that calls for releasing 9,600 more inmates by the end of the year.
In the emergency appeal, Brown’s lawyers say the state has spent $1 billion to upgrade its prisons and improve the medical care of its 119,000 inmates.
In a brief filed late Monday, the state’s lawyers said most of the prisoners who are nonviolent offenders are being kept in county facilities. Most of those who would be released now are classified as moderate- to high-risk inmates, the state said.
“Unless stayed, the three-judge court’s order will release offenders with a history of serious or violent offenses who are very likely to commit more serious crimes,” the lawyers said.
Because Kennedy oversees emergency appeals from the West Coast, Brown’s request went to him. The justice could act on his own or refer it to the full court. But either way, the decision is likely to rest with Kennedy, a California native. The four liberal justices joined his 2011 opinion in the case, and the four conservatives dissented.