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Mississippi County v. City of Blytheville

Supreme Court of Arkansas

February 22, 2018

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, ARKANSAS APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF BLYTHEVILLE, ARKANSAS; CITY OF DELL, ARKANSAS; CITY OF MANILA, ARKANSAS; AND CITY OF LEACHVILLE, ARKANSAS APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 40BCV-14-17] HONORABLE JOHN FOGLEMAN, SPECIAL JUDGE

          Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, by: Jason E. Owens, for appellant.

          Michael Mosley, for appellee.

          COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         Appellant Mississippi County, Arkansas ("the County"), appeals from the Mississippi County Circuit Court's order granting appellee City of Blytheville's ("the City") motion for summary judgment.[1] For reversal, the County argues that the circuit court erred (1) by defining the phrase "prisoners of municipalities, " for whom the City would owe a daily fee for housing in the County jail pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 12-41-506 (Repl. 2016), as only those detainees charged with violation of a city ordinance; and (2) by applying an offset in the amount of taxes paid under an exclusive jail tax by residents of the City to the calculation of "reasonable expenses" under section 12-41-506. We reverse and remand.

         The statute at issue in this appeal, Arkansas Code Annotated section 12-41-506, which is entitled "Municipal Prisoners-Expenses, " provides as follows:

(a)(1) In the absence of an agreement on jail costs between a county and all municipalities having law enforcement agencies in the county, the quorum court in a county in this state may by ordinance establish a daily fee to be charged municipalities for keeping prisoners of municipalities in the county jail.
(2) The fee shall be based upon the reasonable expenses which the county incurs in keeping such prisoners in the county jail.
(b)(1) Municipalities whose prisoners are maintained in the county jail shall be responsible for paying the fee established by the quorum court in the county.
(2) When a person is sentenced to a county jail for violating a municipal ordinance, the municipality shall be responsible for paying the fee established by an agreement or ordinance of the quorum court in the county.
(3) Municipalities may appropriate funds to assist the county in the maintenance and operation of the county jail.
(c)(1) Each county sheriff shall bill each municipality monthly for the cost of keeping prisoners in the county jail.
(2) Each county sheriff shall remit to the county treasurer monthly the fees collected under this section, and such fees shall be credited to the county general fund.
(d) Counties shall give priority to in-county municipalities over contracts for out-of-county prisoners.

         A brief overview of the relevant history between the parties regarding the payment of jail fees for municipal prisoners pursuant to this statute is necessary to understand the issues presented. In 2001, the Mississippi County Quorum Court enacted ordinance number 0-2001-18, "An Ordinance Establishing Fees for Municipal Prisoners Held in the Mississippi County Jail and For Other Purposes." The Ordinance became effective on February 1, 2002, and stated that, in the absence of a written agreement with a municipality for an appropriation of funds to assist the County in the maintenance and operation of the County jail, a fee of $35 per prisoner shall be charged for any prisoner arrested by any state or municipal law enforcement officer within the geographic boundaries of any city or incorporated town in the County for a violation of any state law or municipal ordinance and presented to the County jail for incarceration. In 2008, Ordinance number 0-2008-13 was passed, increasing the daily fee for municipal prisoners to $55 per day, effective January 1, 2009.

         Prior to 2003, the City of Blytheville operated its own municipal jail. After that jail closed in January 2003, the County brought a declaratory-judgment action against the cities of Blytheville, Dell, Gosnell, and Manila seeking to have the circuit court define the term, "prisoners of municipalities, " as found in section 12-41-506(a)(1). An order was entered in December 2003 granting the County's petition to define the term to "include persons housed in the county jail by virtue of a pending misdemeanor charge that is pending on a city docket or municipal docket of any court, whereby the fine revenue that would be owed by the prisoner, if convicted, would be paid to the city or the municipality and not to the county." The City of Blytheville dismissed its appeal of this order following the entry of a consent order in a collection action filed by the County against the City for unpaid jail fees. This consent order, which was filed on August 26, 2004, indicated that the parties had agreed to a daily rate of $15 per day for each municipal prisoner, as defined in the 2003 declaratory-judgment action, for a total of $44, 805 for the months of November 2003 through June 2004. The order further stated that the parties would renegotiate future daily jail fees in September of each year following the expiration of the current agreement on December 31, 2005.

         Subsequent written agreements between the City and the County raised the daily rate for the City's municipal prisoners to $20 for 2006; $30 for 2007-2008; $40 for 2009- 2010; $45 for 2011; and $50 for 2012. There were no further ...


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