Rehearing Denied August 1, 2019
MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME TO FILE BRIEF; PRO SE MOTION TO
DUPLICATE AT STATE’S EXPENSE [LINCOLN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT,
A. WOMACK, Associate Justice
Watts II appeals the circuit court’s denial of his request to
proceed in forma pauperis on a petition for writ of habeas
corpus. The circuit court’s decision was premised on Watts’s
failure to state a colorable cause of action in his
underlying habeas petition. Watts has moved for an extension
of time to file his brief and seeks a duplicate copy of the
record at the State’s expense. Because it is clear from the
record that Watts failed to state a colorable cause of action
for habeas relief, we affirm the circuit court’s decision and
the motions are therefore moot.
Standard of Review
review a decision to grant or deny a petition to proceed in
forma pauperis for abuse of discretion, and the circuit
court’s factual findings in support of its exercise of
discretion will not be reversed unless clearly erroneous.
Breeden v. Kelley, 2018 Ark. 299, 557 S.W.3d 264.
right to proceed in forma pauperis in civil matters is
conditioned on the petitioner’s indigency and the circuit
court’s satisfaction that the alleged facts indicate a
"colorable cause of action." Ark. R. Civ. P. 72(c)
(2017). If the underlying petition clearly fails to state a
colorable cause of action, there has been no abuse of
discretion, and this court may affirm the denial of in forma
pauperis status. Muldrow v. Kelley, 2018 Ark. 126,
542 S.W.3d 856. A colorable cause of action is a claim that
is legitimate and may reasonably be asserted given the facts
presented and the current law or a reasonable and logical
extension or modification of it. Watts v. Kelley,
2017 Ark. 189, 520 S.W.3d 249. The circuit court found that
Watts was indigent. Its decision to deny Watts’s request for
pauper status turned on his failure to state a colorable
cause of action in the underlying habeas petition.
Watts’s Petition for Habeas Relief
of habeas corpus is proper when a judgment of conviction is
invalid on its face or when a trial court lacks jurisdiction
over the cause. Philyaw v. Kelley, 2015 Ark. 465,
477 S.W.3d 503. Because Watts did not allege actual innocence
and proceed under Act 1780 of 2001, he was required to plead
either the facial invalidity of the judgment or the lack of
jurisdiction by the trial court and make a showing by
affidavit or other evidence of probable cause to believe that
he is illegally detained. See Garrison v.
Kelley, 2018 Ark. 8, 534 S.W.3d 136; Ark. Code Ann. �
16-112-103(a)(1) (Repl. 2016). Failure to do so precludes any
basis for issuing the writ. Fields v. Hobbs, 2013
Ark. 416, 2013 WL 5775566. Moreover, assertions of trial
error and due process violations do not implicate the
validity of a trial court’s judgment or jurisdiction.
Ratliff v. Kelley, 2018 Ark. 105, 541 S.W.3d 408.
a 1997 jury trial, Watts was convicted of possession of a
controlled substance with intent to deliver, two counts of
possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a
controlled substance. He was given an aggregate sentence of
sixty years’ imprisonment as a habitual offender. The
Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Watts v. State,
68 Ark.App. 47, 8 S.W.3d 563 (2000). In 1998, Watts was
convicted of additional felony offenses and sentenced as
a habitual offender to life imprisonment. He failed to timely
appeal that conviction. Watts v. State, CR- 00-201,
2000 WL 1448603 (Ark. Sept. 28, 2000) (unpublished per
curiam) (denying motion for belated appeal).
claims raised in Watts’s petition for writ of habeas corpus
were previously raised— and rejected— in a
separate habeas petition. SeeWatts v.
State,2013 Ark. 318, 2013 WL 4774475 (per curiam). In
that petition, as here, Watts alleged that the 1998 trial
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the 1997
trial court had granted his "motion in limine for
joinder of offenses." He argued the prosecution was thus
collaterally estopped from proceeding with the 1998 trial and
made vague references to double jeopardy. The circuit court
dismissed the petition for failing to state a colorable
claim. Id. We agreed and found that Watts had failed
to establish that either trial court lacked jurisdiction to
try and convict him for the separate offenses. Id.
We further noted ...