Legislative Intervenors To Challenge federal Three-Judge Court Prisoner Release Order

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State Senator George Runner – photo: Dan Wilson

(Best Syndication News) SACRAMENTO – California legislators today announced they will exercise their right to appeal to the United States Supreme Court to challenge the Prisoner Release Order issued by the federal Three-Judge Court. A notice of appeal will be filed on Sept. 3, 2009.

The legislators, who intervened in the litigation to oppose issuance of a Prisoner Release Order, said the federal judges had acted beyond their jurisdiction, failed to comply with the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, and issued an order which unnecessarily puts California families at risk of dramatically increased levels of crime.

“The notion of federal judges making decision on behalf of Californians flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly places such decisions in the purview of the states, “said lead intervenor Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley. “We not only oppose the existence of the Three-Judge Court, we find their rulings completely objectionable.”

The Three-Judge Court order, issued on Aug. 4, 2009, calls for the State of California to prepare within 45 days, and implement within two years, a plan to decrease California’s prison population to no more that 137.5% of design capacity. This would require the release of approximately 45,000 prisoners based on the current prison population and a design capacity defined by the Court as one prisoner per cell.

The intervenors dispute the assumption of the Three-Judge Court that medical and mental health care in the California prisons fails to meet Constitutional standards and that it is necessary to release 45,000 inmates to meet those standards in the future.

“Federal judges believe two inmates to a cell equates to overcrowding. That’s preposterous,” said Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, of Murrieta. “Law-abiding citizens aren’t too concerned that two prisoners are housed in one cell. Convicted felons should not be released so that remaining prisoners can have private suites.”

In addition to the legislative intervenors, California district attorney, sheriff, police chief and probation officer intervenors will join the appeal of the Prisoner Release Order. The broad intervenor coalition underscores the risk to public safety inherent in the proposed release of 45,000 prisoners. The State of California has already filed a motion to stay the Prisoner Release Order in anticipation of appeal and that motion is currently pending before the Three-Judge Court.

By George Runner
California State Senator

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