A panel of federal judges has rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's request to delay its order that California release nearly 10,000 additional inmates by year's end.
The 24-page decision issued Wednesday cited the "long history of defendants' noncompliance" in the ongoing legal battle. The case is focused on improving inmate medical care by reducing the prison population.
The decision pushes the long-running court battle over unconstitutional conditions back to the U.S. Supreme Court. The administration has said it will seek a stay from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees appeals from the Western states.
If Kennedy declines to intervene, the state has said it will begin freeing the inmates to comply with the lower court's order.
The judges again rejected Brown's argument that the additional inmate releases imperil public safety.