Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is being sued for allegedly unlawfully freeing almost 1,000 prisoners.
Two district attorneys and victim families claim Brown violated the clemency procedures requiring her to notify the victims.
Plaintiffs include Lane County District Attorney Patricia Perlow and Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny. Their lawsuit also seeks to stop convicted minors from applying for commutation, The Associated Press reported on Jan. 20
The lawsuit claims the Democratic governor unlawfully delegated her responsibilities to state agencies and broke rules for commutation application.
“We are asking that the court compel the governor to follow the laws that are already in place,” said Monique DeSpain. She filed the lawsuit with Common Sense for Oregon and the Salem-based law firm of Kevin L. Mannix, a former chair of the Oregon Republican Party.
The 912 people whose sentences were commuted were deemed at high risk of contracting COVID-19, Brown wrote in a 2020 letter to state lawmakers. Those who were released had served half of their sentences or more, weren’t charged with crimes against people, and had medical issues that put them at risk of COVID complications.
The governor’s spokeswoman said the governor’s office “generally does not comment on matters of pending litigation.”
In addition, the governor commuted the sentences of 41 inmate firefighters who fought Labor Day wildfires.
Those released didn’t “present an unacceptable safety, security, or compliance risk to the community,” Brown said in her letter.
State records show that three jail employees and 44 incarcerated people died since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“This lawsuit is not personal on my part. I believe our laws put limits on (Brown’s) actions. I am working to enforce those limits,” Marteeny said in a statement.
Lewis & Clark Law School professor Aliza Kaplan helped incarcerated people prepare clemency applications. Kaplan stated that Brown’s actions were consistent with historical standards.
“She’s using it in the exact way it should be used,” Kaplan told The Oregonian/Oregan Live. “These people have been punished significantly, and even in a place like prison, they have managed to rehabilitate themselves, and the governor is offering them mercy.