California Courts


California Farmer Warns: "Don't Trust Oil Industry, State or Courts" to Protect Water

By Dan Aiello

Kern County almond farmer, Fred Starrh, is an unlikely darling of the anti-fracking movement in California.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an environmentally risky oil production method of pumping under pressure large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to bubble to the surface heavy tar-like oil left in depleted oil wells and to reach deep deposits of oil and natural gas.

Fracking is the method oil companies seek to employ to proliferate drilling in California where the discovered Monterey Shale Deposit is estimated to contain as many as 15.4 billion barrels of crude 11,000 feet deep.

Brown Can Release Prisoners Early Without Compromising Public Safety

By Lizzie Buchen

After a year of defying court orders to alleviate the state’s prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have finally pushed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to its limit. In an April 11 ruling, having already "exercised exceptional restraint," the exasperated federal judges declared the state "will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States," giving Brown until May 2 to develop a plan that will reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 people by the end of the year.

Fixing California's Mass Incarceration Mess

By Dick Price

As California grapples with a prison system so broken that the U.S. Supreme Court has mandated reductions in the number of prisoners it holds, the three-part "Smart Justice: Rethinking Public Safety in California" discussion begun this past week at the University of Southern California is examining both consequences and possible solutions to the state's mass incarceration mess.

Prop 8 Likely to Be Repealed Narrowly; Court to Hear DOMA Today

By Paul Hogarth

It is never wise to predict U.S. Supreme Court decisions on oral arguments, or else Obamacare would have been repealed. Based on the Justices' line of questioning, however, it appears that they will overrule Proposition 8 - but on narrow grounds that will only affect California. The Justices spent a significant chunk of time on "standing," but they will likely consider the Prop 8 supporters as proper litigants. But Justices Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts had clear problems with finding a "right" to same-sex marriage that would apply nationwide - and the "nine-state" compromise was widely panned. I predict they will rule Prop 8 unconstitutional by applying the Romer precedent and sustaining the Ninth Circuit decision, i.e., Prop 8 was unique because it "took away" a right that same-sex couples already had.

Governor Proposes Pivotal 2013 Budget, Boosts to Medi-Cal, Schools

By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report

California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his 2013-14 budget proposal yesterday, declaring that the state's lean years of budget deficits are over. In place of dramatic spending cuts, the governor's $97.6 billion dollar plan instead offers modest boosts to school funding, along with an expansion of the Medi-Cal program as the state transitions to its Covered California health benefit exchange in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Reform Cuts Marijuana Possession Arrests 86% in 2011, Upends California Drug Policing

By Mike Males

Just-released 2011 arrest statistics from the state Criminal Justice Statistics Center show that pioneering legislation downgrading simple marijuana possession from a criminal offense into an infraction - an effort to deter passage of Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana outright - has detonated a revolution in California drug-law enforcement.

California's new arrest figures read like something out of a drug policy reformer's dream - but with unexpected twists (see graphics). Arrests for marijuana possession plummeted by 86%, from 54,900 in 2010 to 7,800 in 2011, abruptly reversing a two-decade trend of increasing marijuana misdemeanor arrests and returning numbers to levels not seen since before the Summer of Love.

For California Prison Realignment Hype, Scary Tales Deserve Skepticism

By Mike Males and Barry Krisberg

Over the last 30 years, California has created an oversized, overcrowded prison system entailing billions of dollars in taxpayer expense, endless safety and health crises, a dismal record of rehabilitation, and increasingly proscriptive court orders to regulate almost all aspects of prison operations.

One major reason for this crisis is that a number of counties were over-relying on the state system by sending thousands of lower-level property and drug offenders to prison. California's legislature and governor had no choice but to cut prisoner numbers. They mandated that counties, as of October 1, 2011, could no longer send offenders to state prison unless they were convicted of serious, violent, or sex crimes.

Graduate Them, Don't Incarcerate Them!

By Diane Lefer

The problem isn’t a secret: California schools suspend more students than they graduate, tracking them to jail instead of to success. But Ramiro Rubalcaba was surprised when he found himself being part of the solution.

Rubalcaba told his story at a forum on school discipline held in Los Angeles on September 10, sponsored by the California Endowment, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torkalson, and the Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Time For "Testing As Child Abuse Suits" to Fill the Nation's Courts

By Mark Naison

A tragedy is quietly taking place in America's public schools that represent an important opportunity for America's lawyers to advance the cause of equity and justice. All over the nation, with the support of both major parties, schools systems are now requiring that teachers and administrators be evaluated on the basis of student test scores, with their jobs placed in jeopardy if the scores do not reach a certain level.

Systems Change In An Era Of Crime Decline

By Scott MacDonald
Santa Cruz County Probation Department

California is engaging in one of the biggest criminal justice reform implementations in history.  The direction the reform will take is dependent on strong leadership and political will at the local level.  It is an opportunity for justice administrators to implement systems change and reduce the local systems reliance on incarceration. By focusing reform on systems change – that is evaluating the trajectory offenders undergo within the local justice system – counties can be more successful at developing targeted interventions that reduce the failures that lead to unnecessary incarceration, and provide community based opportunities to implement programs targeted to reduce recidivism.