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Mason v. Hobbs

Supreme Court of Arkansas

January 22, 2015

GARY J. MASON, APPELLANT
v.
RAY HOBBS, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, APPELLEE

NO. 35CV-13-540. HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE.

AFFIRMED.

Gary J. Mason, Pro se appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Nicana C. Sherman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

OPINION

PRO SE APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

Page 680

PER CURIAM

In 2009, an amended judgment was entered reflecting that appellant Gary J. Mason had been found guilty of rape, sexual indecency with a child, and possessing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child for which he was sentenced to serve consecutive sentences of 300 months' imprisonment for rape and 72 months' imprisonment for sexual indecency with a child, with a concurrent sentence of 120 months' imprisonment for possessing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Mason v. State, 2009 Ark.App. 598, 330 S.W.3d 445.

In 2013, appellant filed in the Jefferson County Circuit Court a pro se petition for declaratory judgment and for writ of mandamus against the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction (" ADC" ), in whose custody appellant is being held, concerning his eligibility for

Page 681

parole based on the sentence for rape. The circuit court dismissed the petition, and appellant brings this appeal from the order.[1] We review the action of the circuit court de novo, and we will uphold the circuit court's decision in a declaratory judgment and mandamus action unless it is clearly erroneous. Carroll v. Hobbs, 2014 Ark. 395, 442 S.W.3d 834 (per curiam).

Appellant's eligibility for parole was determined by the law in effect at the time his offenses were committed between August 2007 and March 2008. See id. Under the provisions of Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-93-611(a)(1) (Repl. 2006) (repealed by Act 570 of 2011), as in effect at the time appellant committed the offenses, he was required to serve at least seventy percent of the 300-month sentence for rape before being eligible for parole or transfer. The seventy-percent requirement applies notwithstanding any law allowing the award of meritorious good time or any law to the contrary. See Gardner v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 439 (per curiam).

Appellant argued in the petition that the application of section 16-93-611(a)(1) to his sentence was an unconstitutional " sentence enhancement" illegally applied by the ADC without a court order, that he was denied due process of law by the application of the statute without notice, and that the ADC usurped the power of the judiciary by modifying his sentence.

The purpose of the declaratory-judgment statutory scheme is to settle and to afford relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights, statutes, and other legal relations. McCutchen v. City of Ft. Smith, 2012 Ark. 452, 425 S.W.3d 671. This court has 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. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs. v. Ross-Lawhon, 290 Ark. 578, 721 S.W.2d 658 (1986). Here, appellant failed to state a basis for declaratory judgment under Arkansas Code Annotated sections 16-111-101 to -111 (Repl. 2006). Without establishing a right to declaratory judgment, appellant provided no basis for a writ of mandamus to issue. Cridge v. Hobbs, 2014 Ark. 153 (per curiam). The purpose of a writ of mandamus is to enforce an established right or to enforce the performance of a duty. Banks v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 377 (per curiam). A writ of mandamus is issued by this court only to compel an official ...


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