The Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Blake has severely impacted the state’s already backlogged court system that has been worsened by the pandemic. While the legislature has provided counties with some funds to address resentencing and vacating convictions, and reimbursing legal and financial obligations (LFOs), it has not provided enough money to cover the full costs necessary to unwind 50 years of simple possession convictions. Furthermore, the Governor failed to provide any additional funds for the costs of Blake in his 2022 Supplemental Operating Budget.
We anticipate Blake costs to greatly surpass the $74 million the legislature allocated in the 2021 legislative session. In fact, based on data going back to 1999, reimbursements for LFOs are expected to reach at least $200 million, and costs for resentencing and vacations could reach at least $100 million for superior court cases alone. Keep in mind that Blake cases go back to 1971, the data for which will take significantly more time and people power to go through, if the documents still exist. In order to tackle these cases quickly and efficiently, counties will need additional funding.
Sen. Dhingra has introduced SB 5663 which attempts to streamline the procedures to address Blake cases and create a centralized method for disbursing LFOs more efficiently. It is likely that it will be heard the last week of January in the Law & Justice Committee. We support this bill and hope that along with streamlining this process, the legislature will provide additional funds in its supplemental budget to address Blake cases.