Thursday, August 21, 2008

In Re Shaputis & In Re Lawrence (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Aug. 21, 2008)

As I've often discussed, there's been a lot going on in the California Court of Appeal in response to the nearly uniform decisions of the last several Governors (Davis & Terminator) to reverse the recommended grant of parole to anyone convicted of murder. (See, for example, my last post on the subject, from March.) Eventually, of course, that sort of stuff has to be sorted out by the California Supreme Court, and it granted review in two cases in no small part to do so.

But the result in these cases -- Shaputis and Lawrence -- issued today hardly definitively resolve the resulting issues. Indeed, the split in those cases only demonstrates how wildly up in the air these things are.

In Lawrence, the Court affirms the Court of Appeal's reversal of the Governator's denial of parole. It's a 4-3, with George, Kennard, Werdegar, and Moreno on top. But in Shaputis, the Court reverses the Court of Appeal's reversal of the Governator's denial of parole. It's a (4-3), with the same four on top, with the three dissenters in Lawrence (of course) concurring in the judgment, but disagreeing with the relevant standard -- the standard articulated in Lawrence. Justice Moreno, by the way, specially concurs in Lawrence to explain why he comes out. And to highlight his potential role as the Justice Kennedy of the California Supreme Court, at least on this subject. (Though that role is already played by Chief Justice George on a wide variety of subjects. But you can never have enough Justice Kennedys, right?)

This won't be the last word on the subject from the California Supremes. Trust me on that one. But for now, there you have it.