06/16/2021--The Supreme Court today gave Governor Gavin Newsom permission to commute Suzanne Bishop‘s 2013 sentence of 190-years-to-life for robbery as a third strike and vehicle theft as a repeat offender. A commutation would make Bishop eligible for an earlier parole suitability hearing. One old request for a clemency recommendation was returned to the Governor without action. The Governor is constitutionally required to get the court’s positive recommendation before he can grant clemency to anyone who has been “twice convicted of a felony.” The court has said it reviews requests for those recommendations under a deferential standard of review. The court has now eliminated almost all of its previous clemency docket backlog. However, there is still one notable exception: while the Bishop request was submitted just this past March, Governor Newsom’s request for permission to commute Anthony Banks‘s 1996 35-years-to-life sentence for a third strike robbery conviction was docketed almost 13 months ago. And there is more delay for Banks on tap. Today, the court did not rule on the request and instead, acting on a motion filed in August 2020 to unseal the Banks clemency records, sent the file back to the Governor with directions to resubmit it with a justification for keeping all or part of it sealed. It’s possible the court or an individual justice wants to issue an opinion about clemency for Banks that will refer to something in the currently sealed file and the court is giving the Governor one last chance to prevent the something from being publicly disclosed. In the past, a pending unseal motion hasn’t stopped the court from ruling on recommendation requests when those rulings did not discuss anything in the records — the court has returned files to the Governor with re-submission orders, like today’s Banks order, after making recommendation request rulings that were unexplained. With today’s Bishop recommendation, Newsom’s perfect app
roval record remains intact. He is 34 for 34 in having the court approve his pardons and sentence commutations. That’s considerably better than former Governor Jerry Brown, who had the court, without explanation, block 10 intended clemency grants.
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