Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a leading candidate to be Joe Biden’s running mate, repeatedly and openly defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to reduce overcrowding in California prisons while serving as the state’s attorney general, according to legal documents reviewed by the Prospect. Working in tandem with Gov. Jerry Brown, Harris and her legal team filed motions that were condemned by judges and legal experts as obstructionist, bad-faith, and nonsensical, at one point even suggesting that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to order a reduction in California’s prison population.
The intransigence of this legal work resulted in the presiding judges in the case giving serious consideration to holding the state in contempt of court. Observers worried that the behavior of Harris’s office had undermined the very ability of federal judges to enforce their legal orders at the state level, pushing the federal court system to the brink of a constitutional crisis. This extreme resistance to a Supreme Court ruling was done to prevent the release of fewer than 5,000 nonviolent offenders, whom multiple courts had cleared as presenting next to no risk of recidivism or threat to public safety.
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