SACRAMENTO -- A retired appellate judge in Los Angeles has been tapped by federal courts to make the final decision on which and how many inmates to release from prison if California fails to meet a court-ordered limit on the state prison population.
In naming Elwood Lui the compliance officer in the prison crowding case, federal judges also put much of his work out of public view, declaring that his communications with the courts are "confidential and privileged."
Lui did not immediately return calls to his office for comment. His name was drawn from suggestions made by both lawyers for Gov. Jerry Brown's administration and lawyers representing prisoners. He was among the state's nominees, described as having "firsthand experience in evaluating individuals' risk to society" and "eminently qualified" for the task.
A panel of three federal judges in early February set new deadlines for California to reduce prison crowding to acceptable levels, and ordered that if the state fails to meet those goals, a court-appointed compliance officer will have power to release as many prisoners as needed. Corrections department officials have said they expect to be able to comply with the first deadline, in June, for a partial reduction in inmate populations.
According to Wednesday's order, Lui will receive no pay for his work but will be reimbursed for expenses. He stepped down from the state Court of Appeal in 1987 and has been a partner in the Los Angeles law firm Jones Day ever since. In 1990, Lui was asked to temporarily run the Los Angeles Department of Children's Services after its director resigned.