Last year, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Gabriel Sanchez was grilled by Republican U.S. Senators for his role in the passage of California’s Proposition 57 in 2016.
Sanchez, who has since been appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court, helped pass the measure that allowed for early parole of prisoners, according to a Reuters article.
“In the governor’s view, that was the safer way to approach the problem that we had to face as opposed to indiscriminate releases by the courts,” Sanchez testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Sanchez stressed that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 concluded that California’s overcrowded prisons violated constitutional prohibitions of cruel and unusual punishment.
Proposition 57 allows an increase in parole for persons convicted of nonviolent crimes. It also created a system of sentencing credits for rehabilitation and good behavior.
While he was being questioned by members of the Senate, Sanchez told the committee that at the time, California had to either create a new system for parole or allow the federal courts to order the outright release of prisoners without any rehabilitation.
Sanchez was nominated to the 9th Circuit by President Joe Biden in September. The White House seeks to bring greater diversity to the judiciary and hopes to elevate the Latino judge to the federal bench if his nomination is confirmed by the Senate.
Sanchez is a justice on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, a Democrat and a Yale Law School graduate. He was also an associate at the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, according to the article. He worked under then Gov. Jerry Brown from 2012-2018 as deputy legal affairs secretary.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that Proposition 57’s proponents were not candid that it could be applied to incarcerated people convicted of crimes like rape and human sex trafficking.
“As a result of your direct efforts, violent criminals were paroled and California was made less safe,” Cruz said. “Did you intend for violent criminals to be released early, or were you simply unaware of the consequence of your actions?”
Sanchez replied that he was aware “it would affect the entire population of the prison system, hopefully to get people to rehabilitate and improve their lives.”