Sunday, April 5, 2009

Court Limits Judicial Power When Parole Board's Decision Reversed

In In re Masoner (here), the Court of Appeal has limited the power of the courts to order release when a parole board denies parole on the basis of a finding that the inmate is not suitable for parole and the court finds no evidence to support that decision. The court held that an order requiring release in that situation contravenes the separation of powers; instead, the court can only vacate the board's decision and remand for consideration of whether any new evidence supports the board's original decision. Requiring release unconstitutionally limits the parole board's discretion and, additionally, impairs the Governor's power to revew release decisions. On the other hand, court-ordered release is permissible when the board orders release, the Gioverrnor reverses that decision and the court sets aside the Governor's decision for lack of evidence. The difference? The Governor, unlike the parole board, can only consider the evidence that was before the board. If no evidence in that record supports the Governor's decision, release necessarily follows.

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