Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In re ROY BUTLER (Supreme reverses Base Term calculation requirement) 4/2/2018

Super. Ct. No. 91694B
S237014  on Habeas Corpus.
Ct.App. 1/2 A139411, Alameda County

In short: In light of the state’s current sentencing regime (new laws) and the existence of parole procedures focusing on public safety determinations, the Board is not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the In re Butler settlement Order. Accordingly, we  ( the California Supreme) reverse the Court of Appeal.

This means--->  Do NOT expect anymore "Base Term" Calculations at Parole Suitability Hearings. Once found suitable the Title 15 (CCR) "matrix" is not used by BPH anymore. The MEPD and YPED along with other Eligible Parole Date (calculation) will have the final say so for the release. Keep in mind that Senate Bill 230, authored by Hancock mandates that inmates be paroled once they are found suitable by the BPH.  Before SB230, some inmates continued to be held for years after they were deemed suitable for parole because of enhancements that BPH  added to their base terms, such as for additional criminal charges that did not result in a conviction.  Basically, the Supreme Court decided that since these new mandates were in place to protect mishaps, the term calculation were no longer needed.
NOTE: Prop 57 another help for the inmates because it can reduce the Eligible Parole/Release Date (due to milestones reached  via Rehabilitative Achievement Credits).

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article50555705.html#storylink=cpy




In re Butler Background Facts:

In December 2013, the First District Court of Appeal approved a settlement in the case In re Butler, effective April 2014, requiring the Board of Parole Hearings to notify life-term prisoners of their “base term” — the sentence they could expect to serve because of the circumstances of their crime — at their first parole hearing. The ruling rocked BPH's old process of not calculating Base Term, UNLESS the inmates were found suitable. In re Butler made an impression on all the inmates that finally received a "Base Term" Calculation when they appeared before the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). Remembering that BPH use to be named the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) - the name itself implies BPT should have been calculating Base Terms for the crime along time ago.
 
For a while (from 2014) it was great during the Parole Suitability Hearings, because BPH were required to do a "base term" calculations for the inmates. .....even beyond the passing of Senate Bill 230 [introduced by Senator Hancock February 13, 2015].  Another process hiccup occurred, after the passing of SB 230, because BPH decided NOT to do TERM calculations for the Youth Offender and the Elderly Parole hearings.....so Off to Court went Butler with his Legal advocates to argue that BPH had no authority to violate the terms of the Butler Settlement Order.

On or about July 27, 2016, the Court slapped BPH on the wrist for disobeying the Court [Butler] Stipulation. The Board was facing $1,000 fines in over 1700 cases where they failed to set those base terms since the Butler policy went into effect (4/1/2014). As a remedy from BPH, many of the inmates were provided an "on paper" retroactive Base Term calculation by BPH, to avoid the financial fines.

Fast forward to this week and unfortunately but NOT surprisingly the California Supreme reversed the Court of Appeal by stating that : "In light of the state’s current sentencing regime and the existence of parole procedures focusing on public safety determinations, the Board is not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. Accordingly, we [Supreme] reverse the Court of Appeal."


Case Facts:
People convicted of noncapital murder and certain other criminal offenses in California serve indeterminate sentences that run from a minimum number of years to life, making release possible before the end of their life. The Board of Parole Hearings (the Board) decides, subject to relevant statutory provisions and review by the Governor, whether such prisoners are suitable for release. This case concerns the interaction of those statutory provisions with a settlement agreement
arising from litigation about the Board’s procedures. While serving an indeterminate prison term, Roy Butler filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on December 12, 2012, alleging in part that the Board had a responsibility to avoid parole determinations leading to grossly disproportionate prison terms. In 2013, petitioner Roy Butler and respondent, the Board, agreed to a settlement requiring
the Board to calculate the “base terms” of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence for use at the inmate’s initial parole hearing. At the time of the settlement agreement, “base terms” governed the earliest possible release date for inmates serving indeterminate sentences.

Since then, changes to California’s criminal justice system have altered the relevant statutory landscape, such that “base terms” no longer govern the release date of inmates subject to indeterminate sentences.The question before us is whether those statutory developments warrant modification of the settlement order to relieve the Board of any separate obligation to calculate “base terms” under the agreement. The Court of Appeal concluded the answer was no, so the settlement order could remain in force despite the statutory changes. We disagree. The settlement agreement was premised on the idea that “base terms” played some role –– defined by statute –– in determining release dates for those sentenced to indeterminate terms. Given this premise, the elimination of “base term” calculations from any such role is a sufficiently material change that it not only justifies — but in this case, requires — modification of the settlement by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal also concluded that specific “base term” calculations were necessary to assure life prisoners would not suffer constitutionally excessive punishment. Here too, we differ with the appellate court. Base term calculations no longer play a role in the public safety assessments undertaken by the Board to determine the release dates for inmates sentenced to indeterminate terms, and are not designed or obviously well-suited as a tool for avoiding unconstitutionally long terms of incarceration. And, at least to some extent, these inmates are protected against disproportionate punishment through other means, such as provisions ending indeterminate sentences when individuals have served the statutory minimum term and have been found suitable for release. In light of the state’s current sentencing regime and the existence of parole procedures focusing on public safety determinations, the Board is not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeal.

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For the full case decision click on BUTLER LINK (4/2/2018):