Introduction: The Legal Framework

The California Penal Code (section 3041) says that lifers are supposed to be granted parole the first time they become eligible. However, the Board of Parole Hearings and the Governor do not follow that law.

Thus, lifers and their supporters need to understand how courts have been reviewing the Board’s and Governor’s conduct, and the limitations courts have placed on the parole consideration process in attempt to make it fair. It is equally important to understand how the Board and Governor, in turn, have changed their practices just enough to survive review by the courts. Fortunately for lifers, recent court decisions are making it harder for the Board and Governor to continue their illegal practices.

Summarized below are several cases, in chronological order, that demonstrate the evolution of how courts review parole decisions. Please note: this is only a representative subset of numerous published cases in this area of law. (Also, there are many more unpublished decisions than published ones.)