JESSIE E. HILL PETITIONER
EDWIN A. KEATON, CIRCUIT JUDGE RESPONDENT
PETITION AND AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS; PRO SE
MOTION TO FILE UNCERTIFIED DOCUMENTS [OUACHITA COUNTY CIRCUIT
COURT, NO. 52CR-95-156]
K. WOOD, Associate Justice
Jessie E. Hill, filed a petition for writ of mandamus and an
amended petition for mandamus seeking to compel Judge Edwin
A. Keaton to rule on a pro se pleading and grant the relief
requested therein. Hill filed the pleading for postconviction
relief on December 29, 2016. Also pending in this mandamus
proceeding is Hill's motion to file uncertified
documents. We grant Hill's writ of mandamus to the extent
it requires Judge Keaton rule on the outstanding pleading for
postconviction relief but deny the request that we direct
Judge Keaton how to rule on Hill's claims. Hill's
motion to file uncertified documents in connection with this
mandamus proceeding is denied pursuant to Rule 6-1(a) (2016)
of the Arkansas Supreme Court which requires that certified
documents be filed in a mandamus action.
was convicted of first-degree murder pursuant to a judgment
of conviction entered in Ouachita County and was sentenced as
a habitual offender to 720 months' imprisonment to be
served consecutively to a life sentence that had been imposed
in a separate case filed in Grant County. No appeal was taken
from the Ouachita County judgment, because Hill's pro se
motion to file a belated appeal was denied. Hill v.
State, CR-96-710 (Ark. Nov. 4, 1996) (unpublished per
December 2016, Hill filed a pleading below that sought three
separate avenues for postconviction relief that included the
issuance of a writ of error coram nobis; a writ of audita
querela; and a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Act 1780 of
2001, as amended by Act 2250 of 2005 and codified at Arkansas
Code Annotated sections 16-112-201 to -208 (Repl. 2016)
("Act 1780"). Hill contended that he is entitled to
an evidentiary hearing on all three claims for relief, which
were primarily based on allegations that both investigators
and the prosecutor suppressed material exculpatory evidence
in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83
(1963). With respect to his Act 1780 claim, Hill contended
that he is entitled to additional forensic testing. Judge
Keaton has not ruled on these claims.
purpose of a writ of mandamus is to enforce an established
right or to enforce the performance of a duty. State v.
Vittitow, 358 Ark. 98, 103, 186 S.W.3d 237, 240 (2004).
A writ of mandamus is issued by this court only to compel an
official or judge to take some action. Id. A writ of
mandamus will not lie to control or review matters of
discretion and is used to enforce an established right.
Parker v. Crow, 2010 Ark. 371, at 6, 368 S.W.3d 902,
907. Mandamus will compel a judge to act when he or
she should act, but it will not be used to tell a judge how
to decide a judicial question. Branch v. Winfield,
80 Ark. 61, 95 S.W. 1007 (1906).
petition for writ of mandamus goes further than requesting
that this court require Judge Keaton to act on his pleading.
Hill also requests this court compel Judge Keaton to grant
him relief and to schedule an evidentiary hearing. In his
response to Hill's mandamus petition, Judge Keaton
contends that Hill filed his postconviction petition in
December 2016, less than five months before Hill's
mandamus petitions were filed in this court on May 18, 2017
and that this time frame is not unreasonable.
held that a trial judge controls his or her docket and the
disposition of motions filed. Thompson v. Erwin, 310
Ark. 533, 534-35, 838 S.W.2d 353, 354. We have also made
clear that any other practice would destroy the independence
of the trial bench, which is one of the trademarks of the
American judicial system. Id. On the other hand, we
have explained that the trial court's control over a
docket does not mean a motion or case should be delayed
beyond a time reasonably necessary to dispose of it.
Thompson, we declined to issue the writ, but the
petitioner did not have standing to bring a mandamus action.
Thompson, 310 Ark. at 535, 838 S.W.2d at 354.
Furthermore, we noted that the fact that we had declined to
issue the writ should not be construed as sanctioning such
delays. Id. at 536-37, 838 S.W.2d at 355.
Judge Keaton contends that he has not had enough time to
consider and rule on Hill's lengthy petition but failed
to indicate when a ruling would be forthcoming, and he
further failed to fully explain the status of his docket as
it pertains to Hill's petition.
of the above, Hill's request for a ruling on his claims
for postconviction relief is granted and his request to
compel Judge Keaton to grant the relief sought in his
pleading is denied. The resolution of the issues raised in
Hill's pleading is entirely within the discretion of the
trial court and outside the purview of mandamus proceedings.
Furthermore, an evidentiary hearing is mandated under Act
1780 only if the circuit court does not otherwise conclude
that Hill is not entitled to relief. See Ark. Code
Ann. § 16-112-205(a). Again, whether an evidentiary
hearing is warranted under Act 1780 is well within Judge
Judge Keaton is directed to issue an order disposing of the
claims raised in Hill's pleading for postconviction
relief filed in December 2016 within 120 days of the date of
granted in part and denied ...