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Ninth Circuit rejects California bid to avoid federal supervision of prisons

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] Tuesday rejected [order, PDF] an appeal by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official profile] of rulings creating a federal panel [JURIST report] to supervise California's overcrowded prison system [JURIST news archive]. In July, two separate district court judges held [JURIST report] that while California may appeal specific orders made by a special three-judge panel, the state cannot appeal the original rulings establishing the panel. Schwarzenegger had argued that the panel was established too soon, before the state's $7.7 billion prison expansion program [JURIST report] had time to work. The Ninth Circuit denied the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction, stating that California may not appeal before the three-judge panel has been established and has entered a final judgment. The panel's first meeting is set for September 24; the Schwarzenegger administration does not plan to further appeal.

In July, Judge Thelton E. Henderson of the Northern District of California and Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the Eastern District of California rejected California's argument that the panel may jeopardize public safety by ordering the release of prisoners from overpopulated facilities. California's construction program will create 53,000 new prison and jail beds over the next five years. The threat of federal oversight has also induced California to introduce a plan to release prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes [JURIST reports]. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

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