APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO.
72CR-06-1873] HONORABLE MARK LINDSAY, JUDGE
French, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
F. WYNNE, Associate Justice
Tracy French appeals an order entered by the trial court on
December 14, 2018, dismissing an in forma pauperis petition
to proceed with a pro se petition for a writ of error coram
nobis and a motion for appointment of counsel on the basis
that French failed to state a colorable cause of action.
French argued that the writ should issue and the judgment be
vacated in his criminal case because he was coerced into
pleading guilty due to inadequate advice regarding an
available sentencing option when he entered his guilty plea
and that material evidence was withheld by the State in
violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
As French has failed to demonstrate that the trial court
abused its discretion in declining to grant the relief
sought, the order is affirmed.
2006, French entered a negotiated plea of guilty to raping
his daughter on multiple occasions, and a sentence of 360
months' imprisonment was imposed. In 2017, French filed
in the trial court the three pleadings referenced above, all
relating to his request for a writ of error coram nobis. As
stated, the court dismissed the pleadings for failure to
state a colorable claim for the issuance of a writ of error
coram nobis. 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. Morgan v. Kelley,
2019 Ark. 189, 575 S.W.3d 108.
Standard of Review
standard of review of a decision to grant or deny a petition
to proceed in forma pauperis is abuse of discretion, and the
circuit court's factual findings in support of its
exercise of discretion will not be reversed unless clearly
erroneous. Id. An abuse of discretion occurs when
the court acts arbitrarily or groundlessly. Nelson v.
State, 2014 Ark. 91, 431 S.W.3d 852. The same
standard of review is applicable to coram nobis petitions,
and there is no abuse of discretion in the denial of error
coram nobis relief when the claims in the petition were
groundless. Osburn v. State, 2018 Ark. 341, 560
Nature of the Remedy
of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy.
State v. Larimore, 341 Ark. 397, 17 S.W.3d 87
(2000). The function of the writ is to secure relief from a
judgment rendered while there existed some fact that would
have prevented its rendition if it had been known to the
trial court and that, through no negligence or fault of the
defendant, was not brought forward before rendition of the
judgment. Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d
61. The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a
fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record.
Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771.
writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to
achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental
nature. Dednam v. State, 2019 Ark. 8, 564 S.W.3d
259. A writ of error coram nobis is available to address
certain errors that are found in one of four categories: (1)
insanity at the time of trial, (2) a coerced guilty plea, (3)
material evidence withheld by the prosecutor, or (4) a
third-party confession to the crime during the time between
conviction and appeal. Howard v. State, 2012 Ark.
177, 403 S.W.3d 38. Error coram nobis proceedings are
attended by a "strong presumption" that the
judgment of conviction is valid. Nelson, 2014 Ark.
91, at 3, 431 S.W.3d at 854.
Brady violations come within the purview of coram
nobis relief, the fact that a petitioner alleges a
Brady violation is not, in itself, sufficient to
provide a basis for the writ. Wallace v. State, 2018
Ark. 164, 545 S.W.3d 767. There are three elements of a
Brady violation: (1) the evidence at issue must be
favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory or
because it is impeaching; (2) the evidence must have been
suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently;
(3) prejudice must have ensued. Carner v. State,
2018 Ark. 20, 535 S.W.3d 634