The Supreme Court today gave Governor Gavin Newsom permission to commute two sentences: James Ratliff’s 1987 sentence of life without parole plus 13 years and four months for first degree murder, attempted murder, and burglary with a sentence enhancement and Darnell Green’s 1998 sentence of 45 years and 8 months for robbery and attempted robbery with sentence enhancements. A Ratliff commutation would make him eligible for a parole suitability hearing while Green’s commutation would give him a chance for an earlier parole suitability hearing.

The state constitution requires a governor to get an affirmative court recommendation before granting clemency to anyone, like Ratliff and Green, who has been “twice convicted of a felony.”

The court has said it reviews clemency recommendation requests under a deferential standard. (See here and here.) And Newsom has a nearly perfect record — he withdrew one request before a ruling, but the court has approved all 49 of his other requests. That’s better than former Governor Jerry Brown, who had the court without explanation block 10 intended clemency grants. The denial of a request implies that a clemency grant would be an abuse of power.

Newsom submitted recommendation requests for Ratliff and Green in February. Action on the Ratliff request was delayed by a third-party’s partially successful motion to unseal the clemency file. (See here and here).