Victims Rights

Judge tosses Calif. standards for revoking parole

Posted on January 30, 2012. Filed under: Victims Rights |

The Associated Press
Posted: 01/27/2012 05:36:54 AM PST
Updated: 01/27/2012 03:45:44 PM PST

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California’s voter-approved standards for revoking parole violate parolees’ rights to legal representation and tips the scale toward sending them back to prison, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento issued Tuesday’s ruling on parts of Proposition 9, which was approved in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote.

Known as Marsy’s Law, the initiative was intended to add crime victims’ rights to the state constitution.

Parolees had filed a class-action lawsuit against the state over provisions that didn’t guarantee them a right to present evidence at hearings when they were accused of violating terms of their release and allowed parole agents to testify about incriminating statements by witnesses who were not in court.

Proposition 9 also required the parole board to consider the safety of victims and the public when deciding whether to revoke parole, without weighing the costs and burdens of imprisonment.

Karlton said in his ruling that it “violates parolees’ right to a neutral decision-maker by placing a thumb on the scale of justice and tipping the balance towards incarceration,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported (

The judge previously struck down the parole provisions in 2009, saying they violated a previous order he had issued to protect parolees’ rights. But an appeals court sent the case back, telling him to reconsider it by constitutional standards.

In Tuesday’s decision, Karlton cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that parolees have a right to present evidence at revocation hearings and question all opposing witnesses, unless the state has a legitimate reason to keep a witness out of court, Karlton said.

Other provisions of Proposition 9, including one that extends the amount of time that prisoners must wait between parole hearings, remain intact.

Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told the Chronicle that officials are reviewing the ruling.

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CVAA Opposes AB 109

Posted on April 4, 2011. Filed under: California State Budget, Crime, Politics, The Law, Victims Rights |

The Crime Victims Action Alliance formally opposed AB 109 today sending a strong opposition letter to the Governor and members of the Legislature.

As we have been reporting to you, AB 109 passed the legislature in matter of hours after being introduced.  There was no opportunity for the public to comment on this legislation, no time for you to contact your representative.  The vote was done without public input – period!

Now the bill sits on the Governor’s desk.  He has until midnight tonight to take action on this bill.  No action will allow the bill to go into law.  We have asked the Governor to either veto this bill or send it back to enrollment.

Crime Victims Action Alliance has sent our letter of opposition into the Governor and a copy to every member of the legislature.  In addition, Victims Action League in San Diego has also made their voice heard by sending in a letter of opposition.

Click the following link to read our letter sent to the Governor today.  AB109 opposition letter

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Federal appeals court upholds Proposition 9

Posted on March 25, 2010. Filed under: Courts, Crime Victims, Parole, The Law, Victims Rights |

Capitol Alert – Sacramento Bee

March 25, 2010

A three-judge federal appellate panel today overturned Sacramento federal Judge Lawrence Karlton and reinstated the tough parole revocation procedures adopted by California voters two years ago in Proposition 9.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. George Runner and a coalition of tough-on-crime groups, had been challenged by criminal defense groups, saying it “purports to eliminate nearly all due process rights of parolees and directly conflicts with the protections put in place by the injunction and established constitutional law.”

Karlton declared that Proposition 9 conflicted with a permanent injunction agreed to by the state as part of a 15-year-old class action lawsuit on behalf of parolees and issued an injunction against the measure’s application of the tougher procedures.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, now a Democratic candidate for governor, appealed Karlton’s ruling with support from Proposition 9’s backers, particularly the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Today, the 9th District Court of Appeal decision by Judges Michael Hawkins and Milan Smith Jr., with partial dissent from Judge John Noonan, said Karlton erred. Their decision was filed just two days short of one year since Karlton’s decree.

“Because the district court made no express determination that any aspect of the California parole revocation procedures, as modified by Proposition 9, violated constitutional rights, or that the injunction was necessary to remedy a constitutional violation, we vacate and remand the March 2009 order for the district court to make that determination and reconcile the injunction with California law as expressed in Proposition 9,” the decision, authored by Hawkins, said.

“Today’s decision makes it clear that a judge’s order to grant more rights to parolees than constitutionally required does not trump a state constitutional amendment adopted by the people,” said the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation’s legal director, Kent Scheidegger.

The full appellate ruling can be found here.

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Federal judge limits Calif. crime victims measure

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Courts, Crime Victim Services, Parole, Victims Rights |


Thursday, March 26, 2009

(03-26) 16:18 PDT Sacramento, CA (AP) —

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a portion of a crime victims’ rights measure approved by California voters in November that restricts legal rights for parole violators.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ruled that a permanent federal injunction previously agreed to by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration trumps voters’ support for Proposition 9.

The administration agreed in 2004 to provide, at taxpayers’ expense, lawyers for ex-convicts who risk being sent back to prison for violating parole conditions. It also requires the state to act quickly on parole violation allegations and to set up rehabilitation programs that can be used instead of returning the violator to a cell.

Karlton rejected the administration’s argument that voters’ approval of the ballot measure nullifies the administration’s settlement of the class-action inmate rights lawsuit. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

While the Schwarzenneger administration supported the original settlement, its lawyers say the administration is legally bound to uphold voters’ will. The authors of Proposition 9 had written language into the initiative intended to overturn the lawsuit settlement.

That’s not enough to overturn the injunction, Karlton concluded:

“A change in state law standing alone is not the type of change in factual circumstance that renders continued enforcement of a consent decree inequitable,” he wrote in a 34-page opinion.

It costs the state about $30 million annually to provide alleged parole violators with lawyers, according to corrections officials. Victims groups say the agreement exceeds constitutional requirements, though attorneys representing inmates say it is cheaper than other ways of protecting ex-convicts’ legal rights.

Proposition 9 writes victims’ rights into the California Constitution and contains numerous other restrictions on criminals that are not affected by Karlton’s ruling.

Administration lawyers previously said they are required by state law to appeal Karlton’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This is an unfortunate reversal of the will of California voters,” Nina Salarno Ashford, founder and board member of Crime Victims United of California, said in a statement. “What’s worse is that we should never have been at this point in the first place.”

She blamed the administration for agreeing to the 2004 settlement.

The settlement ensures that parole can’t be revoked without a proper and swift hearing, responded attorney Ernest Galvan, who represented parolees in the case.

“What Judge Karlton did protects that process,” Galvan said. “I think it’s a win for public safety in California. I think what we’re learning every day is we need to use our scarce prison beds to keep the dangerous people behind bars and to give the parole agents the tools to keep the less dangerous parolees in the community.”

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Seth Unger said the administration is reviewing Karlton’s decision. Corrections officials never implemented the portions of Proposition 9 overturned in Karlton’s decision because the judge had entered a temporary stay immediately after the November election.

“We are implementing the will of the people on Marsy’s Law aside from the areas which the court has ordered us not to implement,” Unger said, using the proposition nickname adopted by supporters.

That includes giving more notice to crime victims and delaying parole hearings for inmates serving life sentences. Previously, inmates serving life sentences were entitled to a hearing every one- to five years, but now they are eligible every three- to 15 years.

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Key portion of victims-rights proposition thrown out by judge

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Crime Victims, Parole, The Law, Victims Rights |

Los Angeles Times
2:53 PM | March 26, 2009

A key part of a victims-rights measure that voters approved in November has been overturned by a federal judge, who ruled the state must provide attorneys for parole violators when it is considering whether to send them back to prison.

Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the U.S. District Court in Sacramento ruled against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state in issuing an injunction against that part of Proposition 9.

The initiative dictates that the state provide legal counsel to parole violators only under certain circumstances, including when the cases are unusually complex or when the parolee has issues of mental competency. Proponents of Proposition 9 said the measure provides for state legal counsel in about 15% of parole revocation hearings. They say that would save the state $40 million annually in prison expenses.

The judge said legal counsel must be provided in all hearings.

“This is a costly and unnecessary standard for California to use and should be overturned,” said Nina Salarno Ashford, executive board member of Crime Victims United of California. “Especially now, we cannot afford to be spending tens of millions of dollars on unnecessary privileges for convicted felons. Proposition 9 strikes the perfect balance by protecting the constitutional rights of parolees while saving the state tens of millions of dollars a year.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of parolees by prisoners-rights attorney Ernest J. Galvan, who was not immediately available for comment.

— Patrick McGreevy

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