Judge orders Schwarzenegger to testify on prisons
Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO — A federal judge on Thursday ordered Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and two of his top aides to answer questions under oath in a lawsuit that seeks to force reductions in California’s prison population.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Moulds of Sacramento said the Republican governor, Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy and Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Gore must submit to depositions conducted next month by attorneys representing inmates.
The attorneys want the three to testify at a November trial, when a special panel of three federal judges will decide whether overcrowding is harming inmates’ medical and mental health care. The judges could force the state to reduce its prison population.
Moulds rejected the administration’s argument that Schwarzenegger and his aides have limited immunity from questioning because they are high-ranking officials. He also rejected the argument that inmates’ attorneys can get the same information from lower-ranking state officials or through written questions.
That immunity “is not absolute,” Moulds wrote in an eight-page order. He ruled their legal immunity is outweighed because the governor, Kennedy and Gore all have personal knowledge of facts and decisions directly relating to the class-action lawsuit.
“The governor has been personally involved in meetings and strategy sessions with state legislative leaders and others concerning prison overcrowding,” Moulds wrote.
He said Schwarzenegger has repeatedly spoken about the public danger created by crowding in nation’s largest state prison system.
California’s 33 adult prisons were designed for about 100,000 inmates but currently hold 159,000. Inmates’ attorneys allege the crowding has led to numerous problems, including poor medical and mental health treatment.
Schwarzenegger has tried to relieve the crowding by sending thousands of inmates to private prisons in other states. State legislators and the governor last year agreed to spend $7.4 billion to build 53,000 prison and county jail cells to ease crowding, but the building program has stalled because of legal and design problems.
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page said the administration will ask the three federal judges to overturn Moulds’ decision. If that fails, the administration could appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Moulds said Schwarzenegger must submit to questioning under oath for no more than four hours on Sept. 3. He ruled Kennedy and Gore can be questioned for no more than six hours each on Sept. 2 and 4, respectively.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User