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French v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

December 12, 2019

Tracy FRENCH, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 374

          PRO SE APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72CR-06-1873], HONORABLE MARK LINDSAY, JUDGE

          Tracy French, pro se appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

         OPINION

         Robin F. Wynne, Associate Justice

          Appellant 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, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). As French has failed to demonstrate that the trial court abused

Page 375

its discretion in declining to grant the relief sought, the order is affirmed.[1]

          I. History

         In 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.

          II. Standard of Review

         Our 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 S.W.3d 774.

          III. Nature of the Remedy

          A writ 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 ...


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