State's Death Penalty Gets New Judge

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    SAN QUENTIN, CA - MAY 15: A view of the California State Prison at San Quentin May 15, 2009 in San Quentin, California. In an effort to raise cash to help California's financial woes, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to sell some well known State properties. The Los Angeles Coliseum, San Quentin State Prison, The Cow Palace and the Orange County fairgrounds are some of the properties that the governor has named. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    A long-running challenge to California's death penalty procedures  that has resulted in executions being put on hold for five years has been assigned to a new federal judge in San Francisco.
        The reassignment to U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg was  announced this morning by the Northern California federal court's executive  committee.

        The 2006 lawsuit by several death row inmates was handled by U.S.  District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose for five years, but Fogel has taken a  long-term leave from the court to head the Federal Judicial Center in  Washington, D.C.     The lawsuit claims the state's three-drug lethal injection  procedure could cause extreme pain, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's  ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
        A 2006 ruling by Fogel, who found that the procedure then in  effect had numerous flaws, has resulted in a moratorium in executions at San  Quentin State Prison. 
        State corrections officials have now revised the procedure and the  revamped protocol is expected to undergo court scrutiny within the next few  months.
        There are more than 700 inmates on the state's death row, with  cases in various stages of appeal.
        Seeborg, who formerly worked as a federal prosecutor in San Jose,  as a private lawyer and as a federal magistrate, was appointed as a trial  judge by President Obama in 2009. His courtroom is in the San Francisco  branch of the federal court.