RODNEY B. HILL APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE HOWARD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 31CR-16-147]
HONORABLE TOM COOPER, JUDGE.
B. Hill, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MEREDITH B. SWITZER, JUDGE.
Hill pleaded guilty to residential burglary and was sentenced
to fifteen years in the Arkansas Department of Correction
pursuant to a sentencing order entered on February 7, 2017.
On April 24, 2017, Hill filed a pro se Rule 37 petition
seeking postconviction relief from his sentence. The circuit
court held a hearing on Hill's petition on August 8,
2018, and subsequently entered an order denying the petition
on September 4, 2018. Hill filed his pro se notice of appeal
on August 27, 2018. We reverse and remand this case to the
circuit court to determine the issues that were before it and
to make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect
to those issues pursuant to Rule 37.3(c) of the Arkansas
Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Rule 37 petition, Hill asserted that his plea was not made
voluntarily and intelligently and that it was entered without
the effective assistance of counsel. Hill raised at least
nine arguments in support of these two contentions. Following
the hearing, the circuit court entered an order denying
Hill's petition "based upon [the] sworn testimony of
Rodney B. Hill, and based upon the sworn testimony of witness
subject to cross-examination," because "Petitioner
did not request relief that can be granted, did not present
evidence sufficient to grant such relief, and for all the
reasons set forth on the record[.]" The order did not
reference the two bases for Hill's petition or any of the
arguments in support thereof. The order did not include any
factual findings resulting from the hearing or any
conclusions of law relating to any facts.
circuit court is not required to hold a hearing on a petition
for postconviction relief under Rule 37. The circuit court
may deny the petition "[i]f the petition and the files
and records of the case conclusively show that the petitioner
is entitled to no relief." Ark. R. Crim. P. 37(a). The
circuit court is required to make written findings
"specifying any parts of the files, or records that are
relied upon to sustain the court's findings."
Id. If the circuit court does not dispose of a
petition for postconviction relief based on the files and
records alone, it may grant a hearing. In either case,
written findings are required. Specifically, when a hearing
is granted, "[t]he court shall determine the issues and
make written findings of fact and conclusions of law with
respect thereto." Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.3(c). The rule
requiring written findings of fact and conclusions of law is
mandatory. Scott v. State, 351 Ark. 619, 96 S.W.3d
732 (2003). Our supreme court has routinely remanded when the
circuit court fails to enter any written findings following a
hearing. See, e.g., Scott, supra;
Dulaney v. State, 338 Ark. 548, 549, 999 S.W.2d 181,
182 (1999); Coleman v. State, 338 Ark. 545, 998
S.W.2d 748 (1999).
findings are required so that the appellate court can
"effectively review the evidence and the court's
reasoning to determine if the court's conclusions were
clearly against the preponderance of the evidence."
Dulaney, 338 Ark. at 549, 999 S.W.2d at 182.
Conclusory findings of fact will not suffice.
Coleman, supra. In Coleman, the
court reversed and remanded for findings that complied with
Specifically, [the findings of fact] do not reflect how the
trial court applied the standard for ineffective assistance
of counsel claims, as set forth in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), to the allegations that
were raised in Coleman's petition and that were addressed
during the postconviction hearing.
338 Ark. at 547, 998 S.W.2d at 749.
we are faced with a situation similar to that presented in
Scott and the cases cited therein. The circuit court
made no findings of fact or conclusions of law following the
hearing. We are therefore incapable of "effectively
review[ing] the evidence and the circuit court's
reasoning to determine if the circuit court's conclusions
were clearly against the preponderance of the evidence."
Scott, 351 Ark. at 621, 96 S.W.3d at
we reverse and remand this case to the circuit court to
comply with the requirements of Rule 37.3(c).