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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Face off: Strict Parole Boards v. Growing Parole Defense Bar

From The National Law Journal: Parole boards nationwide have become less generous with granting discretionary parole, denying nearly 80 percent of prisoners' requests in 2003, compared with 45 percent in 1980, according to the Department of Justice. But despite the dire statistics, a rush of court actions may be changing the odds. Parolees facing parole boards that are tough on crime are making headway in some federal and state courts with the help of parole defense attorneys.

Here are some current/recent actions:

In California, parolees got a boost from a 2005 lawsuit in which a federal judge held that parolees on revocation charges are entitled to legal representation and a timely hearing. Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger, No. 94-0671 (E.D. Calif.). Also in California, three law firms recently filed a class action in federal court against the California Board of Parole and state juvenile justice department, alleging that they systematically violate the constitutional rights of juvenile parolees in revocation proceedings. LH v. Schwarzenegger, No. S-06-2042 (E.D. Calif.). Finally, the California Association of Parole Defense Attorneys has grown from 20 members to over 100 members in the past three years.

In New York, a team of three solo practitioners has filed a class action against the New York State Board of Parole, alleging that the board has unfairly denied parole to scores of prisoners. The state sought a motion to dismiss, but it was recently denied. Graziano v. Pataki, No. 06 CIV 00480 (S.D.N.Y.). Also in New York, a growing number of state court judges are intervening in parole matters, ordering parole boards to rehear cases where they felt parole was unfairly denied. A judge recently ordered the board to rehear the case of a woman who plead guilty of second-degree murder 23 years ago and who had been denied parole four times, despite her "rehabilitation and exemplary record."

In Michigan, a class action is pending against the state parole board on behalf of 800 prisoners who allegedly have unfairly been denied parole. Foster-Bey v. Rubitschun, No. 05-CV-71318-DT (E.D. Mich.). More. . . [Michele Berry]

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