A state judge on Wednesday blocked Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed ballot initiative to reduce California's prison population, siding with district attorneys who argued that it improperly bypassed normal procedures.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang blocked Attorney General Kamala Harris from issuing documents — the title of the initiative and a summary of what it would do — that would let supporters begin gathering signatures for Brown's proposal.
Friday was the deadline for Harris to act, but Chang agreed with the California District Attorneys Association and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert after they sued over the ballot measure.
The ruling could delay signature-gathering for Brown's initiative beyond this year. Attorney James Harrison, arguing on behalf of the original proponents who allowed Brown to alter their measure, told the judge the initiative could be forced to the 2018 ballot.
The prosecutors who sued said Brown must file a new initiative instead of changing an existing proposal, delaying when supporters can begin collecting signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.
Brown amended an existing initiative that would strip prosecutors of their power to decide if juveniles should be tried as adults, leaving that decision to judges. He added amendments last month to increase sentencing credits for adult inmates and allow earlier parole for non-violent felons.
Harris defended the Democratic governor's approach.
Brown met the deadline for submitting amendments that reasonably related to the initiative's original focus, even though it was amended after the end of the public comment period, the attorney general's office said in a court filing.
A 2014 state law requires 30 days of public comment as a way to improve the initiative process. The same law lets initiative sponsors amend their proposal and lets the state Legislature hold hearings before measures qualify for the ballot.
Aside from the legal arguments, the prosecutors' association says Brown's proposal goes too far by overturning several voter-approved initiatives and allowing earlier parole for thousands of inmates.
This story has been updated.