U.S. judge supervising Oakland police,
California prisons to retire
Send a link to a friend
[January 09, 2017]
By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The federal judge
overseeing California's prison healthcare system and the city of
Oakland's police department plans to retire in August, raising questions
about how reform of both troubled institutions will unfold.
Thelton Henderson, an icon of the U.S. civil rights movement, has
presided over numerous high profile cases in more than 35 years on the
San Francisco federal bench. In 2006, he took control of California's
prison healthcare system after finding that an average of one inmate a
week was dying due to substandard care.
A court-appointed receiver said healthcare has improved in recent years,
but the court still oversees several institutions in the prison system
which costs more than $10 billion a year to run.
Henderson also supervises a settlement which gives him authority over
the Oakland Police Department. City leaders last week announced a new
police chief, part of an ongoing reform project.
In an interview, the 83-year-old Henderson said he does not have the
stamina to do the job as well as he previously had. He declined to
discuss what effect his decision might have on specific cases.
Henderson said he has mixed feelings about leaving now that Donald Trump
is to become president of the United States, and several civil rights
issues remain unsettled.
"These are the kind of battles I like, if I had the energy," Henderson
told Reuters. "But I don't."
Under court rules, a new judge will be appointed to oversee the cases,
either randomly by computer or by court administrators.
[to top of second column]
Oakland was making progress on police reform when a sex abuse
scandal engulfed the department last year, said James Chanin, an
attorney who represents plaintiffs in the case that gave rise to the
Court oversight could still end this year, but a strong judge
supervising the process is essential.
"Otherwise we'll just have a fleeting success and start slipping
backwards," said Chanin. Henderson would be "sorely missed," he
said, but deserves a break.
Henderson was the first African-American attorney to investigate
cases in the Deep South for the U.S. Justice Department in the early
1960s. He had to resign after loaning his car to Martin Luther King
Jr., as Southern authorities said the federal government was taking
He also worked on promoting diversity at Stanford Law School and in
private practice. Henderson said he is pleased that the courts are
far more diverse, particularly in Northern California.
"I never would have realistically imagined myself being a federal
judge," he said. "Its been the high point of my career."
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Mary Milliken)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.