Yet another pandemic-related emergency writ petition filed directly in the Supreme Court has generated a request for an urgent response. As with a similar writ petition, the court might refer the proceeding for expedited trial court hearings instead of deciding the petition’s merits in the first instance.
Claiming that “California’s jails remain dangerously overpopulated for purposes of COVID-19 prevention” and that the “impending viral explosion – imminently likely to occur in most if not all of California’s 58 counties – will directly impact all California residents, including correctional staff, their families, and their respective communities,” the ACLU on Friday petitioned the Supreme Court for a release of enough detainees in county jails and juvenile facilities “to ensure that all remaining persons are held under conditions consistent with CDC and public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including appropriate social distancing.”
A second writ petition, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice v. Newsom, which seeks a moratorium on transfers to federal immigration custody of persons detained in California prisons or jails, appears to have been received by the court but not yet docketed.
The National Association petition acknowledges “the Judicial Council has made some progress” in reducing jail and juvenile facility populations, including the adoption of COVID-19 emergency rule 4 setting bail at $0 for many misdemeanors and felonies, but says that the rule doesn’t help people incarcerated for crimes not qualifying for $0 bail and that the rule is being “implemented unevenly across the state.” It cites opposition to the rule from, among others, the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office, which said, “We are resistant to having a judicial council located roughly 500 miles away, force our local judges to make decisions about releasing inmates into the community.”
The same day that the National Association petition was filed, the court asked for an informal response by this Tuesday, April 28, at 5:00 p.m. and allowed for a reply by noon on Thursday, April 30.
The National Association case resembles a petition seeking a reduction in juvenile detainees in Los Angeles County. The court last week ordered expedited superior court hearings in that matter, but the National Association includes a plea to avoid a similar remand.
The petition says, “By the time the lower courts could issue relief necessary to remedy ongoing constitutional violations, and those orders could be reviewed by the appellate courts, hundreds or thousands of incarcerated people and staff will have contracted the disease.” Also, unlike the Los Angeles County juvenile petition, the National Association petition asks for additional relief that the court might be able to grant without a remand — declarations that the respondent Governor and California Attorney General “have violated the [constitutional] rights” of people in jails and juvenile facilities.
James Queally’s report in the Los Angeles Times: “ACLU sues California to block ICE transfers, reduce prison population amid coronavirus outbreak.”
Vincent Moleski’s report in the Sacramento Bee: “ACLU petitions Newsom, Becerra to reduce jail populations, freeze ICE transfers amid pandemic.”
[April 27 update: the immigration-transfer writ petition — California Attorneys for Criminal Justice v. Newsom — has now been docketed.]
[Second April 27 update: Response requested to writ petition seeking to stop immigration transfers.]