FROM THE LINCOLN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 40CV-16-53]
HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE
Eugene Rogers, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kathryn Henry, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
K. WOOD, Associate Justice
Eugene Rogers, appearing pro se, appeals the dismissal of his
petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus.
Rogers's petition alleged that Knight, as records
supervisor for the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC),
miscalculated Rogers's parole eligibility. The circuit
court dismissed the petition with prejudice because Rogers
was parole eligible and he had a parole hearing; therefore,
no justiciable controversy existed. We affirm.
1973, a Sebastian County jury convicted Rogers of rape and
sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 1980, Rogers was
convicted of a second rape, which he committed while he was
in prison. For that crime, he was sentenced to ten years'
imprisonment to be served consecutively to his life sentence.
In 2015, Rogers filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus
alleging that because he was sixteen years old when he
committed the first rape, the life sentence violated the
Eighth Amendment under Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S.
48 (2010). The circuit court agreed and resentenced him to
ninety years' imprisonment.
31, 2016, Rogers filed a petition for declaratory judgment
and writ of mandamus pertaining to the statutes that govern
his parole-eligibility dates. He alleged that under
Bosnick v. Lockhart, 283 Ark. 533, 677 S.W.2d 292
(1984), his parole eligibility as to both of his sentences
should be governed by the parole statute in effect at the
time of his 1973 conviction because it was his "original
sentence." Rogers believed the ADC was requiring him
to serve one-half of his aggregate 100-year sentence before
becoming eligible for parole, and he asserted that he was
response, the State asserted that Rogers's requested
relief should be denied because Rogers was already parole
eligible and had a parole hearing on May 5, 2016. It attached
an ADC document titled "Inmate Record Summary, "
which showed that Rogers already had a parole hearing. It
argued that because Rogers was parole eligible, there was no
justiciable controversy. The circuit court agreed and
dismissed Rogers's petition with prejudice.
the circuit court considered exhibits outside the pleadings
in making its ruling, we will treat the dismissal as one on
summary judgment. See Hotfoot Logistics, LLC v. Shipping
Point Mktg., Inc., 2013 Ark. 130, 426 S.W.3d 448. The
purpose of a declaratory judgment "is to settle and to
afford relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to
rights, status, and other legal relations." Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs. v. Civitan Ctr.,
Inc., 2012 Ark. 40, 386 S.W.3d 432. Declaratory
relief may be granted if the petitioner establishes (1) a
justiciable controversy; (2) that the controversy is between
persons whose interests are adverse; (3) that the party
seeking relief has a legal interest in the controversy; and
(4) that the issue involved in the controversy is ripe for
judicial determination. Id. We review a circuit
court's decision that there is no justiciable controversy
de novo. Brown v. State, 2017 Ark. 232, 522 S.W.3d
agree that no justiciable controversy exists. Rogers claims
he is parole eligible and has a right to a parole hearing.
The State is not contesting his parole eligibility or his
entitlement to a parole hearing, and in fact had provided him
such prior to the filing of the petition. A controversy is
justiciable when "a claim of right is asserted against
one who has an interest in contesting it." McCutchen
v. City of Fort Smith, 2012 Ark. 452, at 14, 425 S.W.3d
671, 681-82 (citing MacSteel Div. of Quanex v. Ark. Okla.
Gas Corp., 363 Ark. 22, 35, 210 S.W.3d 878, 886 (2005)).
A case is nonjusticiable "when any judgment rendered
would have no practical legal effect upon a then-existing
legal controversy." Neely v. McCastlain, 2009
Ark. 189, at 5, 306 S.W.3d 424, 427.
petition, Rogers also asked the circuit court to issue a writ
of mandamus directing Knight to apply Ark. Stat. Ann. §
43-2807 to both of his rape sentences so that he would be
parole eligible. Again, the State submitted an exhibit
showing he was parole eligible at the time he filed his
petition, and he had a parole hearing. Rogers presented no
evidence or argument to contradict this. Accordingly, the
circuit court did not err in denying Rogers's petition
for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus.
and Hart, JJ., dissent.
R. Baker, ...