A federal judge in Los Angeles allowed reports indicating inmates might have been wrongly convicted to languish for years, saying he was either drafting an opinion or there were many documents to review, it was reported Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson has had the opportunity to rule on three cases in which evidence could exonerate the inmates, but he failed to do so, The Daily Journal said.
An email message left for Anderson's clerk was not immediately returned.
Habeas corpus petitions allow state prisoners to seek review in federal court. There is no set time frame in which a judge must rule, but legal experts interviewed by the newspaper knew of no other judge who had delayed such rulings for that long.
In the case of Omer Gallion, who was serving a life sentence for strangling his mother-in-law to death in 1972, Anderson dismissed his case only after he learned from the inmate's attorney that he had died last year.
Anderson refused to make a decision in Gallion's case for more than five years after a magistrate judge who reviewed his petition recommended the prisoner be released or retried, the newspaper reported.
Congress passed a reform act in 1990 to discourage judges from putting off rulings, and it calls for them to issue semi-annual reports on all cases pending more than three years.
Anderson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and joined the federal bench in 2002, attributed the delays to voluminous documents or that he was in the midst of writing an opinion.
Chief District Judge Audrey Collins said she doesn't believe the issue is a widespread problem.
"I think this is a very unusual situation," Collins said. "I just have every reason to believe Judge Anderson is a very good and hardworking judge."
At least two other inmates have waited more than five years for Anderson to rule on magistrate judge reports recommending their release, the newspaper reported. Anderson, however, has acted quickly in other habeas cases where a magistrate judge has not recommend relief.
Information from: Daily Journal.