Yesterday, at Governor Jerry Brown’s request, the Supreme Court recommended a commutation for Luis Velez, who is serving a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence for murder during the commission of a robbery. Clemency recommendations are constitutional prerequisites to the Governor granting pardons or sentence commutations for twice-convicted felons such as Velez.

Like in other clemency matters after the court recently adopted the practice of publicizing dissenting votes when individual justices choose to do so, Justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan noted that they would not recommend commuting Velez’s sentence. (See here and here.)

The court is typically quite harmonious in its decisions. For example, in the 13 cases on the court’s September and October calendars, there was only one dissenting opinion, and that one by a single justice.

In clemency matters of late, however, the court has been regularly divided. Although all six current permanent justices agree that the court should block a governor’s grant of clemency only when such a grant would be an abuse of power (see here), they are not on the same page as to how to apply that general principle in individual cases. Nor are any of the justices disclosing their views on the subject, a silence that has drawn criticism.

By our count, there are now just two more gubernatorial clemency recommendation requests left for the court to decide. There will likely be action on those next week.