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Davis v. Kelley

Supreme Court of Arkansas

May 24, 2018



          Carl Davis, Jr., pro se appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Pamela Rumpz, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice.

         Appellant Carl Davis, Jr., appeals the Lincoln County Circuit Court's dismissal of his pro se petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus. In his petition, Davis, an inmate incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), challenged the ADC's calculation of his parole eligibility. Davis alleged that the ADC incorrectly included certain felony convictions in its calculation of his multiple-offender classification. Based on the ADC's incorrect calculation, the ADC had determined that Davis was in his "fourth term" and classified him a fourth offender for purposes of parole eligibility. Additionally, Davis argued that including his 1981 convictions for burglary and robbery resulted in an ex post facto violation. The circuit court found that the ADC had not erred in its calculation as to either issue, and therefore, Davis had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. We agree that there has been no ex post facto violation, and we affirm on that issue. However, we do not agree that the perjury conviction should have been used in calculating Davis's status as a habitual offender, and we reverse and remand on that point.

         In 1981, Davis entered negotiated guilty pleas in two cases in the Jefferson County Circuit Court, 35CR-81-321 and 35CR-81-330, on charges of burglary and robbery, which were both Class B felonies. In materials provided to Davis, the ADC counted this as Davis's first term of incarceration.

         In 1983, when Davis had been released on parole, he was convicted and sentenced on two counts of burglary, which were Class B felonies, and two counts of theft of property, which were Class C felonies, in 35CR-83-137. The ADC counted this as Davis's second term of incarceration.

         In 1985, while still incarcerated for the 1983 convictions, Davis entered a guilty plea to perjury, a Class C felony, in 35CR-85-270. Davis's sentence in that case was to be served concurrently to the one he was already serving, and because the term of the sentence for perjury was less than what remained on Davis's previous convictions, the conviction did not extend the aggregate term of his incarceration. The ADC counted this as Davis's third term of incarceration.

         In 1991, after being released on parole for his previous charges, Davis was found guilty and sentenced on a charge of aggravated robbery in 35CR-91-457. Davis is currently incarcerated serving a seventy-year sentence on the 1991 aggravated-robbery conviction.

         The ADC classified Davis as a fourth offender under Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-93-606(b)(4) (Repl. 2006) based on this calculation, and using that habitual-offender status, it determined that under Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-93-607(c)(5), Davis was not eligible for parole. The definition of a fourth offender in section 16-93-606(b)(4) is

an inmate convicted of four (4) or more felonies and who has been incarcerated in some correctional institution in the United States, whether local, state, or federal, three (3) or more times for a crime which was a felony under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the offender was incarcerated, prior to being sentenced to a correctional institution in this state for the offense or offenses for which he or she is being classified.

(Emphasis added.) Section (a) of the same statute defines the term "felony" as used in the section as "a crime classified as Class Y felony, Class A felony, or Class B felony by the laws of this state."

         The circuit court considered exhibits outside the pleadings in making its ruling, and we treat the dismissal as one on summary judgment. Rogers v. Knight, 2017 Ark. 267, 527 S.W.3d 719. Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Hotfoot Logistics, LLC v. Shipping Point Mktg., Inc., 2013 Ark. 130, 426 S.W.3d 448.

         Davis sought the appropriate remedy; a challenge to the ADC's interpretation of a statute and its application to calculate parole eligibility may support declaratory judgment. See, e.g., Hobbs v. Baird, 2011 Ark. 261 (affirming grant of declaratory judgment where ADC had erroneously interpreted statute). The denial of a declaratory-judgment action is upheld unless the denial is clearly ...

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