WILLIE GASTER DAVIS, JR. APPELLANT
WENDY KELLEY, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; JAMES B. DEPRIEST, LEGAL COUNSEL, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; AND LESLIE RUTLEDGE, ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CV-17-751-5]
HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE
Gaster Davis, Jr., pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Maryna Jackson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Willie G. Davis, Jr., appeals the Jefferson County Circuit
Court's order granting the Appellees' motion to dismiss
with prejudice and designation of the dismissal as a strike
under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-68-607 (Supp. 2017). Because
Davis failed to perfect service on Appellees, we affirm the
circuit court's dismissal, but modify it as a dismissal
without prejudice. We reverse the circuit court's
designation of the dismissal as a strike because the circuit
court lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits.
G. Davis, Jr., is serving a life sentence in the Arkansas
Department of Correction for various convictions, including
first-degree murder. In 2010, Davis filed a freedom of
information request seeking crime-lab files related to his
conviction. Since that initial request, Davis initiated a
number of legal actions attempting to obtain the requested
documentation. On October 4, 2017, Davis filed a pro se
petition for writ of mandamus and complaint for conversion
that is the subject of this appeal. He sought a writ to
compel Appellees to release the contents of his crime-lab
file and monetary damages for conversion of the file.
December 8, 2017, Appellees filed a motion to dismiss
arguing, among other things, that Davis failed to perfect
service according to Rule 4 of the Arkansas Rules of Civil
Procedure. Davis did not timely respond to the motion to
dismiss, but rather filed a motion to extend time for
service. The circuit court declined to extend service and
granted Appellees' motion to dismiss "with
prejudice." In addition, the circuit court designated
the dismissal as a "strike." See Ark. Code
Ann. § 16-68-607. After the circuit court filed its
order granting the motion to dismiss, Davis filed a response
to Appellees' motion. This appeal followed.
Standard of Review
review a circuit court's decision to grant a motion to
dismiss for an abuse of discretion. Dockery v.
Morgan, 2011 Ark. 94, at 6, 380 S.W.3d 377, 382. Under
this standard, the facts alleged in the complaint are taken
as true and are viewed in the light most favorable to the
complainant. Id. For the circuit court to have
abused its discretion it must have acted improvidently,
thoughtlessly, or without due consideration. GSS, LLC v.
CenterPoint Energy Gas Transmission Co., 2014 Ark. 144,
at 8, 432 S.W.3d 583, 588.
law has long held that valid service of process is necessary
to give a court jurisdiction over a defendant. Jones v.
Turner, 2009 Ark. 545, at 3, 354 S.W.3d 57, 59. Indeed,
without valid process, the circuit court lacks jurisdiction
over a defendant and any judgment rendered thereafter is void
ab inito. See, e.g., Taylor v.
Zanone Props., 342 Ark. 465, 474, 30 S.W.3d 74, 79
(2000); Sides v. Kirchoff, 316 Ark. 680, 682, 874
S.W.2d 373, 374 (1994).
motion to dismiss argued that Davis failed to perfect
service. If service of a valid summons and a copy of the
complaint is not made within 120 days after filing the
complaint, the action shall be dismissed without prejudice.
Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(i). The circuit court dismissed the action
after the 120 days expired. On appeal, Davis does not ...