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Inmates challenge transfer

Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for two California prisoners on Wednesday asked a federal court to block Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from forcibly transferring convicts to private lockups in other states.

The challenge comes less than a week after the governor ordered the mandatory moves to relieve overcrowding, which he said had reached crisis levels in most of the state’s 33 prisons.

Close to 400 California inmates already have transferred voluntarily to private prisons in Tennessee and Arizona under a program that began in November. Schwarzenegger authorized the mandatory moves because so few convicts had agreed to go.

In papers filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Los Angeles civil rights lawyer Stephen Yagman asked for an order barring the forced transfers of inmates David Diaz and Paul Blumberg -- and others in similar circumstances.

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On Wednesday, a three-judge panel issued an order instructing the Schwarzenegger administration to file a response before a hearing Feb. 20. The order also said the court had been assured Diaz and Blumberg would not be forcibly transferred before then.

Diaz is incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison, in the San Joaquin Valley, for attempted murder and related charges. Blumberg was sentenced to life for attempted murder and is housed at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe.

Both men have filed habeas corpus appeals in federal court, and Yagman argues that because those are pending, the inmates may not be transferred out of state. The mandatory transfers also would violate their constitutional right to due process, he said.

jenifer.warren@latimes.com


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