Alexei Koseff reports in today’s Sacramento Bee on the Supreme Court’s recent unexplained — and rare — blocking of 10 intended grants of clemency by then-Governor Jerry Brown (here, here, here, and here). (I’m quoted in the article.) A California governor is constitutionally required to get the consent of a majority of the Supreme Court before he or she can pardon or commute the sentence of a twice-convicted felon.
Ten months ago, the court stated in a unanimous order its general — and quite deferential — approach to reviewing a governor’s requests for clemency recommendations. It has not, however, yet explained why a handful of specific requests did not meet the standard for approval. Among the perplexed is Brown himself, who is quoted in the article as having said this month, “Read the ones who were approved and read the ones who were disapproved and you tell me what the rule is.”
The article focuses in particular on one prisoner, Joe Hernandez, whose “family was already planning for the possibility [of a gubernatorial clemency] when, on Dec. 21, a majority of the Supreme Court, without specifying a reason, declined to recommend the commutation.”
3 Comments on ““‘It was like a ton of bricks crushed me’: California grapples with historic clemency rejections””
Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to publish this website. It has proved to be a valuable resource for me in checking the decisions of our Supreme Court.
Turning to the question you raised, the explanation could be that Gov. Brown granted commutations to inmates in 2018 at a number far surpassing even the combined totals of his predecessors (as well as all his previous years in office) and the high Court finally decided to apply the brakes.
However, regardless of the reasons for those rejections, there is another question I would certainly like to see raised. Did the Governor submit all those commutations he granted for inmates with 2+ felony convictions to the Board of Parole Hearings and the Court? Doesn’t it seem unusual that BPH only considered (by my decidedly less-than-high-tech count) 62 commutations in 2018, rejecting 2? After they only considered (ditto) 6 in 2017 and zero in 2016? If you review the commutation letters, it appears that the Governor often notes approval by BPH and CSC of the clemency request, but not always-even in case where he notes more than one felony conviction.
The commentators I’ve seen on this issue have regularly pointed out the constitutional and legal requirements that a Governor must meet to grant clemency for inmates with 2 or more felony convictions. Perhaps a more substantive question is whether Governor Brown did so for all his commutations.
Well it looks like you should disregard my Q. In doing some LEXIS checking, it appears that the constitutional/penal provisions restrictions only apply to an inmate who was previously convicted of a felony, not an inmate who was convicted of 2+ felonies in the same case. That should teach me (yet again) to do some research before I pop off.
In any event, my comments regarding your website still hold true.