Judge considers blocking California governor’s prison plan

SACRAMENTO — A judge is set to consider Wednesday whether to block Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot initiative to reduce California’s prison population.

State prosecutors want Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang to prevent Attorney General Kamala Harris from issuing the title and summary for a proposal that they say bypassed the normal filing process.

That would force Brown and his supporters to file a new initiative instead of amending an existing proposal. It would delay when supporters can begin collecting the signatures necessary to put the measure before voters in November.

The California District Attorneys Association and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert argue in a lawsuit that the Democratic governor broke state law when he amended an initiative that was originally intended to strip prosecutors of their power to decide if juveniles should be tried in adult court, leaving that decision to judges.

Brown amended it last month to increase sentencing credits for adult inmates who complete rehabilitation programs and allow earlier parole for non-violent felons.

Harris defended the governor’s approach in a court filing this week that asked Chang to dismiss the challenge. Friday is the deadline for Harris to issue the title and summary unless Chang intervenes.

The governor met the deadline for submitting amendments that reasonably relate to the initiative’s original juvenile justice focus, even though it was amended after the end of the public comment period, the attorney general’s office argued in its response.

Prosecutors are seeking to “delay and impede the initiative process” with a narrow reading of the law, the state argues.

The argument is over a 2014 state law that requires 30 days of public comment in a bid to improve the initiative process. The same law also lets initiative sponsors amend their proposal and gives the state Legislature a chance to 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.

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