on May 25, 2011 at 9:35 am
For a second day, media outlets are flush with analysis of Mondayâ€™s decision in Brown v. Plata, in which the Court affirmed a three-judge district courtâ€™s order to reduce overcrowding in Californiaâ€™s prisons. (This round-up begins with news articles, then moves to opinion pieces in the following paragraph.) Reflecting on Plata in light of recent Eighth Amendment rulings, the Wall Street Journalâ€™s Jess Bravin observes that Justice Kennedyâ€™s majority opinion â€œsharpened his divide with conservative colleagues over what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.â€ A report in the Los Angeles Times highlights the challenge of the overcrowding problem, suggesting that the court order â€œcould be undone by [Californiaâ€™s] tough sentencing laws, persistent recidivism and recurring budget crises.â€ The Associated Press (via NPR) and Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers (via the Miami Herald) examine how the ruling could affect states other than California, and a Wall Street Journal report probes its impact on the state budget debate in California. Focusing on the prison conditions at issue in the case, the New York Timesâ€™s Jennifer Medina reports from a prison in Chino, California. And finally, in response to Justice Scaliaâ€™s assertion (in dissent) that many released prisoners â€œwill undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym,â€ Slateâ€™s Brian Palmer investigates whether â€œpeople really [do] get super-buff in the slammer?â€ His answer: â€œNot anymore.â€
On the opinion front, commentators weigh in to praise and criticize the Plata decision. On the generally supportive sideâ€”for diverse reasonsâ€”are Steve Lopez and Tim Rutten (both in the Los Angeles Times), Sentencing Law and Policyâ€™s Doug Berman, the Heartland Instituteâ€™s Eli Lehrer (via the National Review Onlineâ€™s The Corner blog), and the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Critics of the decision include Representative Dan Lungren (R-CA) (via The Hillâ€™s Floor Action blog), as well as prison reform activist Michael Santos (via the Huffington Post). Some opinion articles resist such categorization. In the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf recommends an approach for releasing prisoners: â€œI am hoping that if theyâ€™re released, these 30,000 lucky prisoners face one unusual obstacle to recidivism: a sophisticated ankle bracelet that doesnâ€™t come off until their original term wouldâ€™ve ended.â€ And at the Rolling Stoneâ€™s Politics Daily blog, Tim Dickinson connects the decision to the challenges to the constitutionality of the Administrationâ€™s health-care legislation; he argues that the Courtâ€™s decision in Plata should â€œboost the spirits of defenders of Obamacare.â€ (Thanks to Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy for the link.)
The other Court-related story making headlines is Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyalâ€™s â€œconfessionâ€ that the Solicitor Generalâ€™s Office made mistakes in defending Japanese internment before the Supreme Court during World War II. (Katyal titled his stance a â€œconfession of errorâ€ on the Department of Justice blog.) In a speech yesterday at a Justice Department event honoring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Katyal said that former Solicitor General Charles Fahy deliberately concealed from the Court a military report concluding that Japanese-Americans were not a serious threat. In the Los Angeles Times, David Savage deems Katyalâ€™s admission â€œextraordinaryâ€ for taking â€œto task one of his predecessors for hiding evidence and deceiving the Supreme Court in two of the major cases in its history.â€ The Blog of LegalTimes, Constitutional Law Prof Blog, the Associated Press (via the Washington Post), and the ABA Journal have further coverage of Katyalâ€™s speech.
- The New York Times editorial board criticizes last weekâ€™s decision in Kentucky v. King, arguing that the ruling â€œundermines the rule of law by shifting the power to approve a forced entry from a magistrate to the policeâ€ and â€œempowers the police to decide whether circumstances allow them to kick in the door.â€
- The Los Angeles Times editorial board urges Congress to â€œrectifyâ€ the â€œunjustifiable anomalyâ€ that Supreme Court Justices are exempt from the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.
- The Wall Street Journalâ€™s Washington Wire blog observes that â€œ[t]he Supreme Court likes to leave its biggest cases to the end of its term to decide, and this year is proving no different.â€