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LINDA GRANTHAM v. MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

MARCH 02, 1988

LINDA GRANTHAM
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL.



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Today's appeal arises from a tragedy that touches the heart and sears the soul of our parole system, yet we confront the reality that the system may not be sued. We know that possibility of parole is an indispensable part of a correctional policy with any hope of doing more good than harm. To the prisoner possibility of parole is hope itself. As well, we know the painful lesson of recidivism: that among those paroled it is a statistical certainty that some will strike again, if only we could know which ones.

 Our state corrections and parole officials function within the tension of these polar realities. Their jobs in part are guided by statutes. Our law has long afforded substantial immunities to these officials in the face of plaintiffs' pleadings, and with good reason. Only where they act with gross disregard for the safety of society or in clear violation

 of statutory directive may they be charged to answer at the bar of civil justice.

 II.

 Clem V. Jimpson served twelve years and three months of a life sentence for murdering a convenience store clerk. On January 9, 1985, he was paroled. Approximately five weeks later, on February 12, 1985, Linda Grantham was returning from lunch to her job as Assistant Vice President of Deposit Guaranty National Bank in Jackson. Jimpson approached Grantham in the parking lot of the Raymond-Terry Road Branch Bank and attacked, assaulted and attempted to kidnap Grantham. When Grantham screamed for help, Jimpson shot her. Grantham is now permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

 Grantham has an action in tort against Jimpson but one of little worth as he no doubt is impecunious.

 On March 25, 1985, Grantham commenced the present civil action by filing her complaint in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi. That complaint, which has since been amended, names as Defendants the Mississippi Department of Corrections; the Mississippi Parole Board; and, in their individual and official capacities, the members of the Parole Board, B. C. Ruth, Ollie Sykes, Joann Kaelin, James R. Figgs, and Paul Carter; and Morris Thigpen, individually and in his former official capacity as Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Grantham charges that by paroling and releasing Jimpson the Defendants acted arbitrarily, negligently and with reckless disregard for the safety of society in general, and herself in particular.

 Each Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, urging that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, Rule 12 (b)(6), Miss. R. Civ. P., and asserting a variety of immunities to suit. Discovery has been held in abeyance.

 On July 31, 1985, the Circuit Court filed an opinion and entered an order dismissing the complaint on immunity grounds. Grantham was allowed to amend her complaint. On June 13, 1986, the Circuit Court finally dismissed the amended complaint, again on immunity grounds.

 Grantham presents the instant appeal.

 III.

 Our procedural posture is important. All Defendants have been held immune to suit. Grantham's amended complaint has

 been finally dismissed without benefit of trial or even pretrial discovery.

 When a complaint is tested via a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, its sufficiency in substantial part is determined by reference to Rules 8 (a) and (e), Miss. R. Civ. P. Rule 8 (a)(1) by and large pretermits any notion of fact pleading and requires only that in her complaint a plaintiff provide" a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, . . . . "

 Rule 8 (e) then provides

 (1) each averment of a plea shall be simple, concise and direct. No technical forms of pleading or motions are required.

 We have by reason of these rules held repeatedly that a motion to dismiss made under Rule 12 (b)(6) should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. Lester Engineering Co., Inc. v. Richland Water & Sewer District, 504 So.2d 1185, 1187 (Miss. 1987); Canton Farm Equipment, Inc. v. Richardson, 501 So.2d 1098, 1103 (Miss. 1987); Bias v. Bias, 493 So.2d 342, 343-44 (Miss. 1986); Busching v. Griffin, 465 So.2d 1037, 1039 (Miss. 1985); and Stanton & Associates, Inc. v. Bryant Construction Co., 464 So.2d 499, 505 (Miss. 1985).

 Our ground rules well in mind, we turn to Grantham's Amended Complaint where we find that she has alleged that:

 (1) Defendants arbitrarily, negligently, and with reckless disregard for the safety of society in general, and Grantham in particular, paroled and released Jimpson;

 (2) Jimpson and seventy-two other inmates were approved for parole and release on the same day;

 (3) Defendants approved Jimpson's release without reviewing all pertinent information as required by Miss. Code Ann. 47-7-17 (1972), a statute Grantham believes mandates that the Parole Board secure and consider all pertinent information regarding each offender being considered for parole" including the circumstances of his offense, his previous social history and criminal record, his conduct, employment and attitude while in the custody of the Department, and the reports of such physical and mental examinations as have been made ";

 (4) The Parole Board and its members had a ministerial

 duty to consider the information set forth in Section 47-7-17 and to make arrangements for Jimpson's proper employment or for his maintenance and care, and ...


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