Thursday, March 26, 2020

BPH Parole Hearing Postponed thru 4/3 and then VIDEO/AUDIO

A new (3/25/2020) Executive Order (EO) N-36-20 from the Executive Department of the State Of California, delineated the new way of doing business (due to COVID-19) and the impact to the parole suitability hearings.

In order to enforce the Social Distancing [due to COVID-19] the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) is coordinating to execute Parole Hearings via VIDEO/AUDIO to avoid the need to access the prison. In our Opinion, this will run afoul of the right to appear at your parole Hearing. BPH/CDCR has decided this and will be enforcing it via the Executive Order N-36-20 (see link below for the full Order)

Inmates and their attorneys can elect to Postpone (or waive)  their hearing under the provision that it shall be rescheduled for the earliest practical date.

According to the new Executive Order N-36-20 from the Executive Department of the State Of California -The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has infectious disease management plans in place to address communicable disease outbreaks such as influenza, measles, mumps, norovirus, and varicella, and CDCR has taken a series of additional proactive steps to
reduce the risk of introducing and spreading COVID-19 in CDCR facilities.

Following is an EXCERPT of the Executive Order- as it relates to inmates and attorneys:

5. For the next 60 days, and for the term of any extensions, to the extent that
any law or regulation gives any person the right to be present at a parole
hearing, that right is satisfied by the opportunity to appear by
videoconference. Specifically:

a. For inmates who choose to go forward with their parole hearing by
videoconference during the next 60 days, and during the term of
any extensions, the inmate's right to be present and to meet with a
Board of Parole Hearing's panel under Penal Code sections 3041,
subdivision (a) (2),3041.5, subdivision (a) (2), and California Code of
Regulations, title 15, section 2247, is satisfied by appearance
through videoconference.

b. For inmates who choose to go forward with their parole hearing by
videoconference during the next 60 days, and during the term of
any extensions, Penal Code section 3041.7 and California Code of
Regulations, title 15, section 2256, which provide that an inmate has
the right to be represented by an attorney at parole hearings, will
be satisfied by the attorney appearing by videoconference
and by
providing for privileged teleconferencing between the inmate and
attorney immediately before and during the hearing. Such inmates
will also be provided reasonable time and opportunity for privileged
communications by telephone with their retained or appointed
counsel prior to the hearing at no charge to either party.

c. For hearings conducted by videoconference during the next 60
days, and during the term of any extensions, the right of victims,
victims' next of kin, members of the victims' family and victims'
representatives to be present at a parole hearing will be satisfied by
the opportunity to appear by videoconference, teleconference, or
by written or electronically recorded statement, consistent with
California Constitution, Article I, section 28, subdivision (b) (7), Penal
Code section 3043, subdivision (b) (1) and California Code of
Regulations, title 15, section 2029, and as provided in Penal Code
sections 3043.2 and 3043.25.

d. For hearings conducted by videoconference during the next 60
days, and during the term of any extensions, Penal Code section
3041.7 providing that the prosecuting attorney may represent the
interests of the people at the hearing will be satisfied by the
opportunity to appear by videoconference, teleconference, or a
written statement.

The Full BPH Executive Order is posted on the Law Office of Diane Letarte website regarding AUDIO/VIDEO Parole Hearings Orders, as a substitute for an Appearance at the Parole Hearing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Prison Law Office Motions 3-Judges Panel to release elderly/sick inmates

SUMMARY INTRODUCTION of the Motion that was filed 3/25/2020 in the USDC, Eastern and Northern composed of three  Judges Pursuant to Section 2284, Title 28 United States Code is stated below: The Prison Law Office (Berkeley) along with Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld (San Francisco), who champion the Brown v. Plata case and Coleman v. Brown cases are filing this EMERGENCY MOTION to release elderly and sick inmate from the overcrowded prison.

California today is under a state of emergency due to the spread of the novel corona-virus and COVID-19, the deadly disease it causes. Like the rest of the country and the world, the State is bracing for the potentially catastrophic ravages of this pandemic. The Governor has taken significant steps to flatten the curve of new cases before hospitals are overwhelmed and the death toll skyrockets, as it has elsewhere. The primary components of the Governor’s actions have been to require social distancing to keep Californians at least six feet apart at all times and to prepare hospitals and health care workers for the coming surge in cases.

Those steps have not been meaningfully implemented in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for one simple reason: the system is far too crowded. The prisons house tens of thousands of people in crowded dormitories where they live, sleep, and bathe within feet—sometimes inches—of each other. The prisons also house tens of thousands of the people most vulnerable to death or severe complications from COVID-19: the elderly and people with serious underlying medical conditions. These conditions pose an unacceptable risk of harm for people who live and work in CDCR as well as to the broader public: prison walls cannot stop the spread of pandemic disease. According to former CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan, California’s prisons are “a tinderbox of potential infection as you go forward, especially if you are just watching what’s going on around the world.”  Another former corrections chief from Colorado sounded a similar warning: “I don’t think people understand the gravity of what’s going to happen if this runs in a prison.… You’re going to see devastation that’s unbelievable.” 

It has been only 13 years since California prisons were under another state of emergency: the state had crowded its prison system beyond humane limits, with deadly results. On October 4, 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a State of Emergency because “the current severe overcrowding in 29 CDCR prisons has caused substantial risk to the health and safety of … the inmates housed in them ….”   Among other significant harms, the Governor found, overcrowded prisons place people living in them at “increased, substantial risk for transmission of infectious illnesses.”

The State has since significantly reduced its prison population overall due to orders from this Court, but not enough to prevent widespread sickness and death during the pandemic. It has taken no steps towards a targeted release of the most vulnerable populations. The Coleman class, people with serious mental illness, is uniquely vulnerable, both to the virus and to the increased isolation and reduced treatment and activities of CDCR’s pandemic response. The current emergency is the inevitable result of the State’s failure to learn the lessons from the emergency of 2006. The deadly promise of the prior overcrowding crisis will be realized today unless this Court acts swiftly to require the State to safely reduce the population in crowded congregate living spaces to a level that will permit social distancing and protect the medically vulnerable by releasing or relocating patients who are at low risk of criminal conduct but especially high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.




1. A Targeted Population Reduction Order Would Directly Address the Needs of the Medically Vulnerable Population and Those Living in Congregate Settings and Would Therefore Be Tailored to the Changed Circumstances

2. A Prisoner Release Order Would Be Narrowly Drawn, Would Extend No Further than Necessary, and Would Be the Least Intrusive Means to Correct the Current Constitutional Violations

TO VIEW the FULL Motion Click Law Office of Diane Letarte and then see COVID-19 Motion..



Friday, February 28, 2020

FIRST 2020 LSA SEMINAR - Helping Families of the Incarcerated.

                            ***** QUICK RELEASE  *****  
           DON'T MISS the First LSA  SEMINAR  of 2020

Saturday,   Feb. 29th 2020   8 am-3:30 pm

The first seminar of the year, February 29 in Sacramento.  Once again this year Jennifer Shaffer, Executive Director of the Board of Parole Hearings will be attending, to fill us all in on the latest in parole and answer questions from those in attendance.  Ms. Shaffer's remarks are usually the most anticipated part of the seminar, and she always brings great insight into the board's workings and process.  

Also sharing their knowledge will be attorney Michael Beckman, one of the top parole attorneys in the state and John Dannenberg, former lifer, current contributor to California Lifer Newsletter and the subject of two impactful lifer litigations In RE: Dannenberg I and II.  Micheal will discuss attorney interactions with both clients and the board, while John will share some personal advice and observations aimed at helping your lifers become successful at the board.

LSA  provides lunch and in the afternoon, break into smaller groups to go deeper into several areas of suitability.  And, we'll have a few more paroled lifers in attendance, who can chat with you and share their path to success.  It's a full day, but you'll come away with much to think about and share with your loved one who is heading to the parole board.

And once again, we have a great venue, Capital Christian Center, easy to find, plenty of parking and a very friendly atmosphere.  The easiest way to sign up is to go to LSA website, and on the Events page, you can use a debit or credit card to reserve your seat.
 If you'd rather register with a check or MO, just sent that, along with your information, to the address below -  For either method of registration don't forget to include your email address, for follow ups.

  Capital Christian Center
  9470 Micron Ave. 
  Sacramento, CA. 95827  



Thursday, January 16, 2020

SB1437: UPDATE to GOODEN and LAMOUREUX Cases are going up to the CA SUPREME

QUICK UPDATE on SB1437 since December BLOG post:

We know there were two published cases that opined that SB1437 is Constitutional as stated in our November  BLOG. We also know that both were Published by the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One: People v. Lamoureux (D075794) and People v. Superior Court  (Gooden/Dominguez) (D75787 and D75790).

As we anticipated from our last month Blog:
 We believed that  People v. Lamoureux  and People v. Superior Court  (Gooden/Dominguez) would be petitioned to the California Supreme Court.

Well.. YES, A petition for review was filed in Gooden on December 19, 2019 and a petition for review in Lamoureux was filed on December 26, 2019 to the California Supreme Court.  I assume Review will be granted by the California Supreme Court on these cases in early 2020. 

Still up to date we believe that the Orange County Superior Courts have, so far, adopted the position that SB 1437 is unconstitutional.  We are now keeping our eyes on case number G057510, People v. Solis pending in the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three. The case is fully briefed, but Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. As a reminder - Oral argument has NOT been scheduled yet, and probably won't be until early this year  (attorney unavailability noted out to 02/18/20, last checked)


There are many issues in the Trial Courts. The DAs are trying to come up with "new theory" of Murder to keep the inmates incarcerated. Some DA's are trying to bring in (as new evidence) the Parole Suitability Hearing transcripts from CDCR (prisons).

Some Judges are overstepping their Boundary / Jurisdiction (i.e. LA County) by resentencing a 1st degree murder to a 2nd degree murder without an information/indictment nor proving each element of the crime Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. At this point- it is unclear -- If the DA did proceed by way of new information or indictment, would there be a double jeopardy issue?  Unknown
We hope a Notice of Appeal (NOA) will be filed on this injustice.

PRELIMINARY FILINGs of SB1437 [PC 1170.95 resentencing petition] by inmates: BEWARE

The 2d District, Division 1, has issued a published opinion in Vince Lewis, B295998, affirming a summary denial of an 1170.95 petition prior to appointment of counsel.  They hold that at the initial step, prior to appointment of counsel, the trial court may consider the "record of conviction", including the opinion on direct appeal, and summarily deny the petition on that basis alone. It appears that different Public Defenders regions are taking action to try to salvage some of these cases that the Judge may have wrongfully denied the  inmates' Petitions, before s/he had the advantage of having Counsel represent them.

Let's stay tune for the on-going development of the new law and its proper and improper execution at the Trial Court Level