Politics, government and public life for Southern California

US Supreme Court rejects California Gov. Brown's request to halt state prison releases (Updated)

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The State of California has lost its latest appeal to halt prisoner releases ordered by a federal court to ease overcrowding.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s argument that a lower court's prisoner reduction order threatens public safety.

The state had sought a stay of a lower court's ruling, which the Supreme Court denied. Unless the High Court agrees a formal appeal from the state,  California will have to reduce its prison population by roughly 9,000 inmates by year's end. 

The justices gave no reason for the denial. Justice Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying they would have granted the stay.

The Secretary of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Jeffrey Beard, responded with a written statement, saying the state will pursue its appeal  to the U.S. Supreme Court “so that the merits of the case can be considered without delay.”


Spike in marriage licenses follows Prop 8 demise

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Orders On DOMA And Prop 8 Cases

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In the first month since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed gay marriages to resume in California, requests for marriage licenses grew dramatically throughout Southern California.

Southern California county clerks have seen a flood of couples requesting marriage licenses after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in late June ended California's ban on same-sex unions.

Los Angeles County issued 47 percent more marriage licenses this July than in the same month last year. Applicants don't list their genders, so no one at the County Clerk's office was willing to attribute the increase to same-sex couples.

San Bernardino County was up 30 percent, and Orange County 23 percent.

The really big increase was in Riverside County — particularly in the desert town of Indio.

As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Prop 8, the mayor of Palm Springs started promoting his gay-friendly resort city as a destination for same-sex marriages. The local tourism bureau website features same-sex as well as heterosexual couples.


Martinez sworn in, calls LA City Council’s dearth of women ‘embarrassing’

Nury Martinez

Nury Martinez Campaign

Newly sworn-in Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez told her all-male colleagues, "We can do better" when it comes to electing women in the city.

Nury Martinez was sworn in as the only woman on the 15-member Los Angeles City Council Friday. In fact, she’s the only elected woman official in the nation’s second largest city. The mayor, city attorney and controller are all men.

“The fact that I’m the only woman in 18 elected offices in the city of Los Angeles…its embarrassing,” Martinez said in her first remarks at a city council meeting in Van Nuys, an area she represents.

“We can do better,” she said.

The former Los Angeles Unified School District board member encouraged her male colleagues to mentor young women and to encourage them to run for office: “Gentlemen, all of you have women in your districts that are doing great community work.”

Martinez's family, including her husband and young daughter, joined her in council chambers. She thanked her parents, who also attended.


President Obama moves to fill the 9th Circuit Court

John Owens of the L.A. office of Munger, Tolles & Olson has been nominated to a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Michelle Friedland of the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson has been nominated to a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

President Obama has nominated a pair of Californians to fill vacant seats on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

John B. Owens is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Owens spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's office in California after graduating first in his class at Stanford Law School. He also clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Munger, Tolles could be losing another partner, but from its San Francisco office. The president also nominated Michelle T. Friedland to the 9th Circuit. She graduated second in her class at Stanford and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

President Obama said "their impressive legal careers are testaments to the kind of thoughtful and diligent judges they will be."

One of these seats has been vacant for nearly a decade. Carl Tobias, law professor at the University of Richmond, says it's the longest appellate court vacancy in the country. He says both nominees are "well qualified and uncontroversial, so they should be smoothly confirmed." That won't happen until next year, he says, given the calendar and the number of nominees ahead of them.


Garcetti promises tough negotiations with DWP labor union

Garcetti gestures

Frank Stoltze

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promises to hold down salaries and require all Department of Water and Power employees to begin contributing to their healthcare costs.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is promising to hold down salaries at the Department of Water and Power during labor contract talks now under way. But it's unclear how much the mayor can squeeze from the powerful union that represents DWP workers, and whether the city council will back him up.

Members of the council often criticize the DWP and its water and power rates, but they also heap praise on the nation’s largest municipal utility.

“There are a lot of tremendous people who work there,” Councilman Tom LaBonge said when asked about the well-paid workers at the DWP. ”When it’s hot, they’re high on those poles, and deep in those ditches.”

Newly elected Councilman Gil Cedillo – a one-time union organizer – dismissed the idea that the city overpays DWP workers.

“I don’t think we’ve been too generous with workers of DWP or with any workers in the city of Los Angeles,” Cedillo said. “They have difficult jobs – some of them are very dangerous.”