Under the state constitution, at least four Supreme Court justices must recommend clemency before the Governor can pardon, or commute the sentence of, someone who has been “twice convicted of a felony.” Governor Gavin Newsom currently has 15 recommendation requests waiting for court action (see here, here, here, here, and here), and the wait has been unusually long.
The oldest two requests have been pending for over six months. The most recent eight were submitted in August. By comparison, the Governor’s first 13 requests — all of which were granted — were on the court’s docket for a median time of just five weeks before rulings, and all but two were acted on within seven weeks. The two outliers took 15 and 20 weeks.
The last time the court was taking a long time to act, we speculated that the court or an individual justice might be writing a statement to address unanswered questions about how clemency recommendation requests are reviewed. That turned out not to be the case then, but maybe it will be now.