Grab your pocketbooks and your shades. This fall’s U.S. Supreme Court battle over a federal panel’s order to cap California’s prison population is going to be a pricey and legally star-studded affair.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has retained Sidley Austin powerhouse Carter Phillips to argue that a federal three-judge panel didn’t have the authority last year to tell the state to slim its inmate population by 40,000. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed (.pdf) today to review the panel’s finding that overcrowding in California’s prisons is the primary reason behind unconstitutional levels of inmate medical care. Schwarzenegger v. Plata, 09-1233
State taxpayers will foot Phillips’ bills of up to $400,000 for briefings and oral arguments plus “additional costs,” said Gordon Hinkle, spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
While the attorney general’s office will remain co-counsel in the case, don’t expect to see AG and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown sparring with Justice Scalia.
“The administration believed that this case was of such importance that it needed an experienced advocate in the United States Supreme Court,” Hinkle said. “The attorney general’s office agreed and gave us authorization to obtain the services of Mr. Phillips.”
Arguing against Phillips will be a familiar appellate face: King & Spalding partner Paul Clement. The former solicitor general is representing a class of prison inmates.
“We’re very happy to have him on board,” said Ernest Galvan of Rosen, Bien & Galvan. The San Francisco firm has directed the mental health portion of the prison litigation for 20 years and decided to bring Clement on board for the U.S. Supreme Court action, Galvan said.
Rounding out the legal fight card are: Donald Specter of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, representing a separate class of prison inmates challenging prison health care; Laurie Hepler of San Francisco’s Carroll, Burdick & McDonough, representing the intervenor California Correctional Peace Officers Association; and Steven Kaufhold of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in San Francisco, representing state GOP legislators opposed to the federal panel’s order.