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More time for prison release case

The Supreme Court on Monday added 20 minutes to the scheduled time for the Nov. 30 argument in Schwarzenegger v. Plata (09-1233), a case testing federal court authority to order the release of state prison inmates to relieve overcrowding and the health hazards that result from it.  As a result, the 80-minute argument will be held second, not first, on that Tuesday.  The revised calendar is here.

The Court earlier in the day had turned down a request from lawyers for the prisoners involved to divide the argument.  Instead, the Court added ten minutes for each side to argue.

The case involves two tracks of challenges by California inmates to overcrowding conditions.   One of the tracks involved state prison officials’ failure to provide adequate mental health care in the overcrowded facilities, and other involved failure to provide adequate medical care.   The lawyers for the separate groups of inmates, in asking the Court to divide argument time, asked that each group’s lawyer get 15 minutes, to share the 30 minutes allotted for their side of the case.

Their motion argued that the two groups represent different interests and “bring different perspectives to bear” on the issues at stake.   Thus, they contended, each group’s counsel should be allowed to take part in it.

Although the Court in response denied an appearance by both counsel, it has increased the time, presumably to allow a fuller airing of the two groups of inmates’ claims, with some added time for the state to respond.  It will be up to the prisoners’ lawyers to decide which of them argues their side of the case in the lengthier hearing.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, More time for prison release case, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 15, 2010, 12:53 PM),