California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales

PETITIONER: California Department Of Corrections et al.
RESPONDENT: Morales
LOCATION: Phoenix Police Department

DOCKET NO.: 93-1462
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 514 US 499 (1995)
ARGUED: Jan 09, 1995
DECIDED: Apr 25, 1995

ADVOCATES:
James R. Asperger - on behalf of the Respondent
James Ching - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 25, 1995 in California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the court in number 94-1462 California Department of Corrections versus Morales will be announced by Justice Thomas.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in an essence it involves twice convicted murder who says that after I was convicted you had changed the parole hearing rules and that violates the ex post facto clause.

Respondent was convicted of murdering his wife in 1980 while on parole for previous murder.

He became eligible for parole in 1990.

As required by California Law the Board of Prison terms held a hearing in 1990.

At that time the board found respondent unsuitable for parole although the California Law in effect when respondent was convicted provided for annual hearings, parole hearings.

In 1981 amendment to that law allowed the board to differ respondent’s subsequent hearings for up to three years.

In this case the board differed the hearing of respondent. After it found that the, it was not reasonable to expect the parole would be granted and another hearing during the intervening years.

The board scheduled respondent’s next hearing for 1992.

Respondent then filed this habeas petition.

He argued that as apply to him, the 1981 amendment constituted and ex post facto law.

The District Court denied the petition but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the amendment effectively increase respondent’s sentence.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today we reverse.

The ex post facto clause is aimed at laws that retroactively alter the definition of crimes or increase punishments.

The 1981 Amendment has or had no effect on the punishment attach to respondent’s crime.

It left untouched respondent’s indeterminate sentence as well as the substantive formula for securing any reductions to that sentence.

The Amendment simply altered the methods for fixing a parole release date under identical substantive standards.

Respondent contains that there is some conceivable risk that the Amendment will effect the actual term of his confinement.

We conclude however that respondent’s speculation is insufficient to establish an ex post facto violation.

The amendment creates only the most attenuated possibility of increasing the measure of punishment for the effected crimes, this showing his insufficient under the ex post facto clause.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Souter has joined.