The Supreme Court’s list of matters scheduled to be considered at tomorrow’s conference includes Office of the State Public Defender v. Bonta. (See: Supreme Court is now making public the cases that will be discussed at its weekly conference.) That’s the original writ petition filed in the Supreme Court three months ago claiming the State’s death penalty system, because it is “administered in a racially discriminatory manner,” violates the State Constitution’s equal protection provisions.

The court has various action options:

  1. Summary denial of the petition without comment. If this is the choice, look for a separate statement from one or more justices (Justices Goodwin Liu and Kelli Evans are the most likely) to accompany the court’s order.
  2. Summary denial of the petition without prejudice to re-filing it in a lower court or without prejudice to raising the issue in a specific death row inmate’s case. A separate statement is possible for this option as well.
  3. An order to show cause, returnable in a lower court, thereby requiring a decision on the merits in the lower court, with possible later Supreme Court review.
  4. Appointment of a special master to review the petition’s evidence and report back to the court.
  5. A straight order to show cause, with Supreme Court briefing, oral argument, and a full opinion to follow.

Options 3, 4, or 5 would be dramatic, putting California’s entire death penalty scheme at risk. Option 5 seems the least likely action because the writ petition is based on extensive evidence that no court has yet passed on and the Supreme Court isn’t designed to be, and probably doesn’t want to be, the first.

Programming note: I’m reporting for jury duty tomorrow afternoon, so blogging about the court’s action will likely be delayed.


Heavyweight writ petition asks Supreme Court to declare death penalty unconstitutional

Supreme Court asks for preliminary opposition to anti-death penalty writ petition

Two former justices urge Supreme Court to review anti-death penalty writ petition

AG asks for evidentiary hearing on anti-death penalty petition; 2 DAs want the petition denied

LA Times: “Of course the death penalty is racist. And it would be wrong even if it weren’t”

“California’s death penalty law deserves a vigorous defense”

50 years ago, the California Supreme Court (temporarily) ended the death penalty

Supreme Court affirms death penalty for murder of elderly couple; concurrence criticizes California’s death penalty system

Claiming “racial discrimination infects the administration of California’s death penalty,” Governor submits amicus brief supporting defendant’s appeal