The Supreme Court today upheld the release of over 30,000 prisoners in California as one remedy for overcrowding. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in the bitterly divided, 5-4, case : Brown v. Plata ( formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata when argued November 30, 2010 ).
As is becoming more common in cases where there is sharp disagreement Justice Scalia read his pungent – adjective stolen from NYT’s Liptak - dissent from the bench as Kennedy – on the right below – stared straight ahead.
Andrew Cohen has written about the Court’s decision and the long simmering issue of growing prisoner population here.
A sketch of Justice Ginsburg reading her opinion in Skinner v. Switzer :
WaPo story here.
It was a lively debate as the Justices considered whether a District Court in California can compel the release of inmates from overcrowded prisons.
As the lawyer for California began his arguments by raising the specter of “between 36,000 and 45,000 inmates” released into the population Justice Sotomayor asked him to “slow down the rhetoric and give me concrete details”. But after 80 minutes of arguments from both sides the lawyer, Carter Phillips, said in concluding “I guarantee you that there is going to be more crime and people are going to die on the streets of California.”
And the prisoners’ lawyer, Donald Specter, got it from Justice Alito : “If this order goes into effect, we will see. We will see, and the people of California will see”.
The case is Schwarzenegger v. Plata
Lyle Denniston’s analysis here.