Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court today put off a decision on whether California must release more than 40,000 inmates to relieve overcrowding in its prisons.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had appealed a ruling of a three-judge panel last year that found prisoners were being denied adequate healthcare because of overcrowding. The judges then ordered the state to come up with a plan to reduce the prison population by more than 40,000 inmates. In his appeal, the governor said the judges had overstepped their authority under federal law.
But before the high court acted on that appeal, the state had filed a plan to comply with the judge's order.
Today, the justices dismissed the initial appeal from Schwarzenegger, but noted that the judge's order had been put on hold and would remain so "pending review by this court."
Washington attorney Carter Phillips, who is representing the state of California, said he was preparing a new appeal that challenges the entire basis for the judge's order. Today's action "largely affects the timing," he said.
The justices will decide in a few months whether to hear the prison case, and the prison-release order remains on hold in the interim.