Ninth Circuit to Rule on California’s Prop 9 (That’s Not a Typo)
With all the press that California’s Prop 8 has been getting as it journeys through the federal courts, I’ve been remiss in failing to note on this blog that Prop 9 is also being challenged. Passed in 2008 (in the same election as Prop 8), Prop 9 or Marsy’s Law was marketed as the “Victims’ Rights and Protection Act,” and made a number of changes to parole hearing procedures in California. Among its major effects was to lengthen the time before indeterminately sentenced offenders are eligible for a parole eligibility hearing.* Opponents of Prop 9 noted that California already grants parole in an exceedingly low number of murder/manslaughter cases (<1%), and that many of the rights purportedly granted to victims by Prop 9, such as expanded rights to be heard at parole eligibility hearings, already existed either at the county level or pursuant to the Victims’ Bill of Rights of 1982 (otherwise known as the first Prop 8).
Nevertheless, the proposition passed with about 54% of voters in favor, and is now being challenged in the federal courts under the Ex Post Facto Clause. The Prison Law Office has summarized the law’s implications and possible objections to the law in a handy memo (PDF link). Although I have not had time to digest all the information about this case myself, I can confidently direct readers who want to know more over to California Corrections Crisis which has been following the case and summarized last week’s oral arguments at the Ninth Circuit. Stay tuned and I’ll be sure to keep you posted when the Ninth Circuit panel issues its ruling. The docket info is Gilman v. Schwarzenegger, No. 10-15471.
* Prop 9 also includes provisions that would curtail due process to parolees already out (who, given California sentencing law and policy, are usually determinately sentenced offenders), including imposing new limits on the right to appointed counsel at parole revocation hearings. However, California was quickly stayed from implementing these provisions because they appear to violate a previous injunction issued in an earlier lawsuit, Valdivia v. Davis. CDCR appealed the stay and I believe the most recent activity was the Ninth Circuit’s March 2010 ruling remanding the litigation back to the district court “to reconcile the Injunction and Proposition 9” (opinion PDF), but perhaps readers are aware of more recent developments.