The Ninth Circuit effectively gave the go-ahead for contempt proceedings against the governor and the state controller today, ruling (.pdf) that the state officials’ attempts to block punishment from a federal judge overseeing prison medical conditions are premature.
It’s the second court loss in as many days for Schwarzenegger & Co. in their battle against prison receiver J. Clark Kelso. On Tuesday U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson rejected the state’s request to dump Kelso — the receiver Henderson appointed last year — and put the Department of Corrections back in charge of prison medical care.
We broadly paraphrase the Ninth Circuit, after the jump ...
Today, the Ninth Circuit rejected the state officials’ request for protection from Henderson, who on Oct. 27 ordered them to give Kelso $250 million for early medical facility planning or risk contempt findings. But the appellate court said that Henderson’s order “is not final, but is rather an interim step toward further proceedings.”
You can ask us for help again when Henderson actually starts rattling the jail keys, the appellate court — to paraphrase broadly — told the governor and controller.
The court also dismissed state officials’ argument that, if the Oct. 27 order stands, the state can’t raise a separate argument that Henderson has no legal authority to authorize prison construction.
“That dilemma,” Justice William Canby Jr. wrote for the three-member panel, “may simply be a consequence of the state’s failure to follow more appropriate procedures … to challenge the receivership and its plans.”
The governor’s office declined to say what its next legal step would be. “The governor is committed to controlling excessive government spending during these difficult economic times,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page said.
Kelso would only say in a prepared statement that he “looked forward to working with state officials” on prison medical care in light of the recent decisions.
— Cheryl Miller