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Name: In re Lira
Case #: S204582
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 02/03/2014

A life inmate found suitable for parole is not entitled to credit against his parole period for time spent in prison between the Governor’s erroneous parole reversal and his eventual release. Lira was sentenced to 15 years to life in 1981 following conviction for second degree murder. Pertinent to this appeal, in 2008, the Board of Parole Hearings found Lira suitable for parole. The Governor reversed the decision in 2009, which Lira challenged in a habeas petition. While the petition was pending, the Board again found petitioner suitable for parole in 2009 and this time the Governor declined to review the decision. Lira was paroled in 2010. The trial court granted Lira habeas relief, finding that the Governor, and the Board on a previous occasion, acted unlawfully in denying Lira parole, and ordered that he receive credit against his parole term. The Court of Appeal affirmed but modified the order granting relief to provide credit only for the period between the Governor’s 2009 reversal and Lira’s actual 2010 release on parole. The California Supreme Court granted review to consider the credit issue. Held: Reversed. The Governor’s reversal did not render Lira’s custody unlawful, such that he would be entitled to credit against the parole term. Rather, because the Governor engaged in his independent constitutional authority to review decisions by the Board, during the time in question, Lira was lawfully imprisoned and received credit against the term of life imprisonment. To rule otherwise would infringe on the separation of powers doctrine by permitting the judiciary into the executive branch’s realm of parole matters. Also, this interpretation supports former Penal Code section 3001, subdivision (b) requiring three continuous years of parole after release from confinement. Finally, because Lira failed to show that he had a fundamental right to credit against his parole period, there is no substantive due process violation.