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U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up California Prison Crowding Case

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WASHINGTON (KCBS/AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about a federal court order requiring California to release inmates from its overcrowded prisons.

The case to be argued Tuesday stems from medical care judged so poor it once was blamed for contributing to an average of one inmate death a week. It pits states’ rights against the power of the federal judiciary.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

Last year, a panel of three federal judges ruled that reducing California’s prison population by about 40,000 inmates is the only way to improve medical and mental health care.

“We have fewer and fewer examples of federal judges exercising these broad powers when they feel that an agency of the state executive branch has failed,” theorized Santa Clara University law professor Ed Steinman following. “It felt that the response of the defendants, primarily the Schwarzenegger administration, was not there. “

Eighteen other states joined California in the case, arguing that releasing tens of thousands of inmates would needlessly threaten public safety.

“We’ve had, in the past, issues of courts asserting powers over various kinds of governmental functions and the U.S. Supreme Court the last few years has given a message that they don’t think that courts should be using these broad powers,” Steinman suggested.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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