California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 15 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 499 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

Brief for Petitioner 3, n. 1. If the Board's decision to postpone the hearing is subject to administrative appeal, the controlling regulations also seem to preserve the possibility of a belated appeal. See 15 Cal. Admin. Code 2050 (1994) (time limits for administrative appeals "are directory only and may be extended"). An expedited hearing by the Board—either on its own volition or pursuant to an order entered on an administrative appeal—would remove any possibility of harm even under the hypothetical circumstances suggested by respondent.

Even if a prisoner were denied an expedited hearing, there is no reason to think that such postponement would extend any prisoner's actual period of confinement. According to the California Supreme Court, the possibility of immediate release after a finding of suitability for parole is largely "theoretica[l]," In re Jackson, 39 Cal. 3d, at 474, 703 P. 2d, at 106; in many cases, the prisoner's parole release date comes at least several years after a finding of suitability. To the extent that these cases are representative, it follows that "the 'practical effect' of a hearing postponement is not significant." Id., at 474, 703 P. 2d, at 106-107. This is because the Board is bound by statute to consider "any sentencing information relevant to the setting of parole release dates" with an eye toward establishing "uniform terms for offenses of similar gravity and magnitude in respect to their threat to the public." Cal. Penal Code Ann. 3041(a) (West 1982). Under these standards, the fact that a prisoner had been "suitable" for parole prior to the date of the hearing certainly would be "relevant" to the Board's decision in setting an actual release date, and the Board retains the discretion to expedite the release date of such a prisoner. Thus, a prisoner who could show that he was "suitable" for parole two years prior to such a finding by the Board might well be entitled to secure a release date that reflects that fact. Such a prisoner's ultimate date of release would be entirely unaffected by the change in the timing of suitability hearings.


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