Alexei Koseff reports in today’s Sacramento Bee on the Supreme Court’s recent unexplained — and rare — blocking of 10 intended grants of clemency by then-Governor Jerry Brown (here, here, here, and here). (I’m quoted in the article.) A California governor is constitutionally required to get the consent of a majority of the Supreme Court before he or she can pardon or commute the sentence of a twice-convicted felon.
Ten months ago, the court stated in a unanimous order its general — and quite deferential — approach to reviewing a governor’s requests for clemency recommendations. It has not, however, yet explained why a handful of specific requests did not meet the standard for approval. Among the perplexed is Brown himself, who is quoted in the article as having said this month, “Read the ones who were approved and read the ones who were disapproved and you tell me what the rule is.”
The article focuses in particular on one prisoner, Joe Hernandez, whose “family was already planning for the possibility [of a gubernatorial clemency] when, on Dec. 21, a majority of the Supreme Court, without specifying a reason, declined to recommend the commutation.”