FROM THE POPE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 58CR-15-606]
HONORABLE BILL PEARSON, JUDGE
G. Bridgeman, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Pamela Rumpz, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.
Bobby Bridgeman appeals a Pope County Circuit Court denial of
his pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant to
Rule 37.1 (2016) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure.
On appeal, he challenges the circumstances surrounding the
entry of his guilty plea and the effectiveness of his counsel
in explaining the consequences of his suspended sentence.
Because his claims have no merit, we affirm.
we can address the specific arguments that Bridgeman raises
on appeal, we must first address how our court obtained
jurisdiction over appeals such as this, which have
historically been decided by our supreme court. In the
beginning, amendment 58 of our state constitution vested in
the supreme court the power to determine the jurisdiction of
the court of appeals. Ark. Const. amend. 58. Likewise, amendment
80, which repealed amendment 58, continues to make clear that
the court of appeals "shall have jurisdiction as the
supreme court shall by rule determine." See
Bales v. City of Fort Smith, 2017 Ark. 161 (quoting Ark.
Const. amend. 80, § 5 (emphasis added)). Pursuant to
this grant of authority, our supreme court has outlined our
courts' respective appellate jurisdiction in Rule 1-2 of
the Rules of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Under
Rule 1-2, all cases appealed shall be filed in the court of
appeals except for a subset of designated cases delineated in
subsection (a) in which our supreme court has expressly
retained jurisdiction. Under Rule 1-2(a)(8), our supreme
court reserves jurisdiction over appeals "required by
law to be heard in the Supreme Court." Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
to March 2, 2017, the Arkansas Supreme Court exerted
jurisdiction over all postconviction matters, as it had
previously and consistently held that such appeals are
"required by law to be heard by the Supreme
Court" pursuant to Rule 1-2(a)(8). Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
1-2(a)(8) (emphasis added). See non life-or-death
Rule 37 appeals citing Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 1-2(a)(8) as the
basis for jurisdiction: Green v. State, 2014 Ark.
284 (per curiam) (10-year aggregate sentence); Moore v.
State, 2014 Ark. 231 (per curiam) (29-year aggregate
sentence); Barber v. State, 2014 Ark. 179 (per
curiam) (40-year aggregate sentence); Mathis v.
State, 2014 Ark. 148 (per curiam) (112-year aggregate
sentence); Thornton v. State, 2014 Ark. 113 (per
curiam) (45- year aggregate sentence); Rackley v.
State, 2014 Ark. 39 (37-year aggregate sentence);
Ellis v. State, 2014 Ark. 24 (per curiam) (40-year
aggregate sentence); Moten v. State, 2013 Ark. 503
(per curiam) (22-year aggregate sentence); Williams v.
State, 2013 Ark. 375 (per curiam) (60-year aggregate
sentence); Bond v. State, 2013 Ark. 298
(per curiam) (115-year aggregate sentence); Golden v.
State, 2013 Ark. 144, 427 S.W.3d 11 (25-year aggregate
sentence); Charland v. State, 2012 Ark. 246 (75-year
aggregate sentence); Tornavacca v. State, 2012 Ark.
224, 408 S.W.3d 727 (30-year aggregate sentence);
Henington v. State, 2012 Ark. 181, 403 S.W.3d 55
(36-year sentence); Keck v. State, 2012 Ark. 145
(25-year sentence); McLeod v. State, 2010 Ark. 95
(per curiam) (5-year sentence); State v. Smith, 368
Ark. 620, 249 S.W.3d 119 (2007) (15-year sentence);
Fisher v. State, 364 Ark. 216, 217 S.W.3d 117 (2005)
(55-year aggregate sentence). To assist in the exercise of
this jurisdiction, the supreme court employed, and still
employs for its exclusive use,  an entire office to handle these
types of cases.
March 2, 2017, however, our supreme court, without
effectuating a rule change and without any explication or
further explanation as to why it was no longer required by
law to hear such cases, summarily transferred a majority of
its Rule 37 cases to this court by means of a footnote in an
unsigned per curiam opinion. See Barnes v. State,
2017 Ark. 76, footnote 1, 511 S.W.3d 845, footnote 1 (per
curiam). Thus, we exercise jurisdiction over this appeal
pursuant to the authority apparently delegated to us by
virtue of this simple footnote contained in Barnes.
turn to the merits of Bridgeman's claims. The facts are
these. Bridgeman was originally charged with residential
burglary and felony theft of property. Later, the State filed
an "amended" information adding a habitual-offender
allegation. Eventually, Bridgeman pled guilty to a
reduced charge of breaking or entering instead of his initial
charge of residential burglary. In exchange for his plea, the
State further agreed to dismiss the theft-of-property charge
and to recommend a sentence of ten years in the Arkansas
Department of Correction (ADC) with an additional five years
suspended. The court accepted Bridgeman's guilty
plea on the breaking-or-entering charge and sentenced him to
ten years in the ADC with five years suspended. The court
entered a sentencing order reflecting his conviction, but the
order did not indicate that Bridgeman was being sentenced as
a habitual offender.
August 4, 2016, Bridgeman timely filed a verified Rule 37
petition with the court. In his petition, Bridgeman alleged
that he had been improperly sentenced to ten years'
imprisonment on a Class D felony that carried a range of only
zero to six years. He claimed that the trial court sentenced
him as a habitual offender, despite not having been convicted
of being one. Based on those assertions, Bridgeman alleged
that he was sentenced outside the appropriate sentencing
range, thereby denying him his right to due process and to a
fair trial, and that he received an illegal sentence. The
trial court denied his petition for postconviction relief
without a hearing on August 10, 2016.
appeal, Bridgeman challenges the trial court's factual
findings, argues that his attorney was ineffective for not
sufficiently informing him of the sentencing consequences of
his suspended sentence, and asserts that he was convicted of
a crime for which he was never charged. We do not reverse a
denial of postconviction relief unless the trial court's
findings are clearly erroneous. Greene v. State, 356
Ark. 59, 146 S.W.3d 871 (2004). A finding is clearly
erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the
appellate court after reviewing the entire evidence is left
with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed. Flores v. State, 350 Ark. 198, 85 S.W.3d
896 (2002). When a plea of guilty or nolo contendere is
entered, the sole issue in postconviction proceedings is
whether the plea was intelligently and voluntarily entered on
advice from competent counsel. See Mancia v.
State, 2015 Ark. 115, 459 S.W.3d 259. We must now
turn our attention to the record of the proceedings before
the trial court at the time Bridgeman entered his
appeared before the trial court on June 6, 2016, for entry of
his plea. Prior to taking his plea, the trial court advised
Bridgeman of the charges for which he was pleading guilty,
that he was being charged as a habitual offender, that the
habitual-offender designation elevated the sentencing range
on his crimes, and that the range as charged was from zero to
fifteen years in the ADC and/or a fine not exceeding $10,
000. Bridgeman indicated that he understood the charges
against him and the possible ranges of punishment for his
crimes. The court then questioned Bridgeman to determine
whether his plea was voluntarily, knowingly, and
intelligently made. The court also inquired as to whether
Bridgeman was satisfied with the services of his attorney, to
which Bridgeman responded, "Yes." The court then
informed Bridgeman of the State's sentencing
recommendation and that his sentence would be served
consecutively with his convictions arising out of Johnson
County. Bridgeman acknowledged his understanding of the plea
agreement as announced by the court.
denying the petition, the court found that Bridgeman was
fully aware that he was being charged as a habitual offender
and that he had entered a knowing and voluntary negotiated
plea of guilty to a reduced charge of breaking or entering.
The court further found that Bridgeman knew at the time of
his plea that his offense contained a range of punishment
from zero to fifteen years' imprisonment in the ADC. The
trial court determined that the sentencing order was entered
mistakenly, and it had inadvertently failed to check the box
reflecting that Bridgeman had been sentenced as a habitual
offender. However, the trial court held that because the plea
agreement negotiated by Bridgeman's attorney was exactly
the plea agreement to which he pled guilty, counsel was not
ineffective. Moreover, because Bridgeman waived his right to
a jury trial when he knowingly and voluntarily entered his
guilty plea, he was not denied his right to a fair trial. The
court then issued an amended sentencing order nunc pro tunc
correcting the habitual-offender designation.
Bridgeman argues that the order denying his postconviction
relief contains errors: that he was initially charged with
residential burglary and theft of property and that an
amended information added the habitual-offender enhancement.
He further argued that he was convicted of breaking ...