Acting with unusual speed, the Supreme Court today approved Governor Gavin Newsom’s requests to grant a pardon and a sentence commutation.

The Governor is constitutionally required to get the court’s positive recommendation before he can grant clemency to anyone who has been “twice convicted of a felony.”  The court has said it reviews requests for those recommendations under a deferential standard of review.

Newsom is now cleared to commute the 55 years and six months sentence imposed on Rahsaan Thomas in 2003 for second degree murder and attempted voluntary manslaughter.  The commutation would make Thomas eligible for an earlier parole suitability hearing.

Newsom can also now pardon Scotty Bowman for a 1996 conviction of possession of a controlled substance and burglary.

It’s been only 22 days since Newsom sent the Thomas and Bowman clemency recommendation requests to the court, along with five other requests that remain pending.  The rulings are faster than the norm.

Early in Newsom’s term, the court granted a couple of requests in just 21 days.  (Here and here.)  More recently, however, there was quite a backlog, with 15 requests waiting between 240 and 338 days for rulings.  (See, e.g., here and here.)  Before today, decisions on the last seven requests were made between 83 and 97 days after submission.  (See, e.g., here and here.)

The Governor has a nearly perfect record — other than one request that Newsom withdrew before a ruling, the court has approved 37 of 37 requests he has submitted.  That’s better than former Governor Jerry Brown, who had the court, without explanation, block 10 intended clemency grants.

[November 16 update:  Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the possible clemency for Rahsaan Thomas — “Court permits Newsom to consider clemency for convicted murderer, now a prison journalist.”]