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Lewis v. Hobbs

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 2, 2014



David Lee Lewis, Pro se, appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


Page 531


In 1984, appellant David Lee Lewis was convicted by a jury in the Desha County Circuit Court of first-degree battery and aggravated robbery, and he was sentenced to an aggregate term of 720 months' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). This court reversed appellant's convictions and remanded for a new trial in Lewis v. State, 286 Ark. 372, 691 S.W.2d 864 (1985). In 1985, appellant was again convicted of the crimes charged, and he was sentenced as a habitual offender to consecutive sentences of 360 months' imprisonment for the aggravated-robbery conviction and 288 months' imprisonment for the first-degree-battery conviction. This court affirmed. Lewis v. State, 288 Ark. 595, 709 S.W.2d 56 (1986).

In 2012, appellant filed in the Jefferson County Circuit Court pro se petitions for declaratory judgment and for writ of mandamus in which he sought to challenge the calculation of his parole eligibility and application of meritorious good-time credit and also contended that he had been eligible for release since 2005.[1] The circuit court entered an order denying the relief sought, and appellant now appeals and raises the same claims that were raised below.

A petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus is civil in nature. Wiggins v. State, 299 Ark. 180, 771 S.W.2d 759 (1989). We have held that there are four requisite conditions before declaratory relief may be granted: (1) there must exist a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (3) the party seeking relief must have a legal interest in the controversy; (4) the issue involved in the controversy must be ripe for judicial determination. Pitts v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 457 (per curiam); see also Aguilar v. Lester, 2011 Ark. 329 (per curiam) (citing Ark. Dep't of Human Servs. v. Ross-Lawhon, 290 Ark. 578, 721 S.W.2d 658 (1986)). The declared legislative purpose is " to settle and to afford relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights, status, and other legal relations." Ark. Code Ann. § 16-111-102(a) (Repl. 2006). Our declaratory-judgment act was not intended to allow any question to be presented by any person; the matters must first be justiciable. Aguilar, 2011 Ark. 329.

The purpose of a writ of mandamus is to enforce an established right or to enforce the performance of a duty. Pitts, 2013 Ark. 457; Banks v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 377 (per curiam) (citing Aguilar, 2011 Ark. 329). A writ of mandamus is issued only to compel an official or a judge to take some action, and when requesting a writ, a petitioner must show a clear and certain right to the relief sought and the absence of any other remedy. Pitts, 2013 Ark. 457. But, a writ of mandamus will not lie to control or review matters of discretion. Id.

Page 532

The determination of parole eligibility is solely within the province of the ADC. Anderson v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 354 (per curiam). The law is well settled that parole eligibility is determined by the law in effect at the time the crime is committed. Aguilar, 2011 Ark. 329. In the instant case, appellant was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment of 360 months for the charge of aggravated robbery and 288 months for the charge of first-degree battery. The trial record reflects that the State introduced evidence of appellant's habitual-offender status-a plea of guilty in 1978 to breaking or entering, a Class D felony, and theft of property, a Class C felony, and a plea of guilty in 1979 to aggravated robbery, a Class A felony.

Arkansas Statutes Annotated section 43-2807.1 (Supp. 1983), in effect at the time appellant committed the underlying charge of aggravated robbery, provided:

Any person who commits . . . aggravated robbery subsequent to the effective date [March 24, 1983] of this Act, and who has previously pled guilty, nolo contendere or been found guilty of . . . aggravated robbery, shall not be eligible for release on parole by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Thus, pursuant to section 43-2807.1, appellant is not eligible for parole on the 360-month sentence imposed for the underlying aggravated-robbery charge because he has previously ...

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