Prison Overcrowding Case Gets New Judge

There will be a substitution to the team of three federal judges who have overseen the reduction in California’s prison population.  U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller of Sacramento will replace Judge Lawrence Karlton, who is retiring.

The two other members are U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

The 9th Circuit announced Friday Mueller would replace Karlton.

The special panel of three was formed under terms of federal prison reform law that prevents a single federal judge from capping prison populations or ordering release of inmates due to overcrowding.  The law requires appointment of a special three-judge panel.

The panel ruled in 2009 that a spate of prisoner lawsuits over health care, that overcrowding contributed to a healthcare system so bad that inmates were dying needlessly from treatable maladies.

The panel ordered California to cut its inmate population from what had grown to nearly 200 percent of capacity for the 33 institutions to 137.5 percent, roughly 112,000 inmates.

The state has taken a number of steps to cut inmate populations, including early releas3e of low level convicts and shifting of many non-serious offenders to county jails.

But the state remains roughly 5,000 inmates over the reduced population ceiling.  Currely the numbers are roughly 117,000.

Mueller, 56, was appointed to the federal trial bench in 2010 by President Obama after serving seven years as a federal magistrate.

Karlton was appointed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.  He has presided over an inmate mental health care case since 1990.  That case became part of the prison population review of the three-judge panel.

Case: Coleman v. Brown, C90-520, Plata v. Brown, C-1-1351.





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