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Appeals court backs Prop. 9 parole revocation rule

In reversing a judge, the panel affirms the ballot measure's provision that California must provide legal counsel in such hearings only in particularly complex cases.

March 26, 2010|By Patrick McGreevy

Reporting from Sacramento — A federal appeals court Thursday upheld strict parole revocation rules approved by California voters in 2008, overturning a federal judge's decision.

Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the U.S. District Court in Sacramento had previously issued an injunction against part of Proposition 9, known as the Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy's Law. He had said California was required to abide by a 2004 court- imposed consent decree mandating that the state provide legal counsel in all parole revocation hearings.

A three-judge panel ruled Thursday in favor of the ballot measure's provision that legal counsel must be provided by the state only in particularly complex cases.

"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 Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which helped draft Proposition 9. Scheidegger filed papers in the appellate case on behalf of state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) and other Proposition 9 supporters.

The decision was issued by Judges John T. Noonan, Michael Daly Hawkins and Milan D. Smith Jr. of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"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 said.

The judges also said hearsay evidence could be considered in some cases involving parole revocation.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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