In rare action, California Supreme Court rejects 10 of Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempts to grant clemency

Gov. Jerry Brown, center, responds to a question concerning a compromise plan reached on reducing the state's prison population, during a Capitol news conference in September 2013.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The California Supreme Court has rejected 10 attempts by former Gov. Jerry Brown to grant clemency, the first time it has exercised that power in more than half a century.

Brown granted a historic 1,332 pardons and 283 commutations during his final two terms as part of a push to scale back the state’s tough-on-crime approach that began under his first governorship. But the court blocked 10 of those requests in the final weeks of the Brown administration, which ended this month, the Sacramento Bee reported Thursday.

The court has not rejected pardon or commutation requests under a governor’s consideration since 1930 but earlier noted it had the authority in the case of an “abuse of power.”


A court representative said the justices are not planning to provide any further clarification.

The court’s rejections have baffled judicial observers.

David Ettinger, an appellate lawyer who writes a blog about the California Supreme Court called At the Lectern, said that, from the information publicly available about the rejected cases, he couldn’t distinguish them from a significant number of other life-without-parole commutations that the Supreme Court signed off on.

“There’s really no guidance for future courts, for future clemency requests, for future governors making requests, as to why certain ones might get blocked and certain ones won’t,” he said.