SACRAMENTO (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about a federal court order requiring California to release inmates from its overcrowded prisons.

The case to be argued Tuesday stems from medical care judged so poor it once was blamed for contributing to an average of one inmate death a week. It pits states’ rights against the power of the federal judiciary.

Eighteen other states have joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration in urging the justices to reject the order.

Last year, a panel of three federal judges ruled that reducing California’s prison population by about 40,000 inmates is the only way to improve medical and mental health care.
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