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Mississippi Department of Corrections v. Allen

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

January 26, 2017

MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, MARSHALL FISHER, EARNEST LEE AND SONJA STANCIEL
v.
CHARLES D. ALLEN a/k/a CHARLES DAVID ALLEN

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/28/2015

         SUNFLOWER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. MARGARET CAREY-MCCRAY JUDGE.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: ANTHONY LOUIS SCHMIDT, JR. OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: DARRELL CLAYTON BAUGHN.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CHARLES D. ALLEN (PRO SE).

          KITCHENS, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Charles Allen, a parole-eligible inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), filed a request pursuant to the administrative review procedure (ARP) that MDOC develop a case plan for him. MDOC denied the request and, after exhausting his administrative remedies, Allen appealed to the Circuit Court of Sunflower County. The circuit court found that Allen was entitled to receive a case plan under an amendment to the Probation and Parole Law. MDOC appeals, arguing that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over Allen's appeal because it was untimely, and, alternatively, that the Probation and Parole Law does not entitle Allen to receive a case plan.

         ¶2. Because MDOC's argument that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over Allen's action is not supported by the record, we do not consider it. We find that, based on our recent holding in Fisher v. Drankus, 204 So.3d 1232 (Miss. 2016), the Probation and Parole Law does not entitle Allen to a case plan. Therefore, we reverse the decision of the circuit court and render a decision in favor of MDOC.

         FACTS

         ¶3. The record includes the first page of Allen's circuit court appeal, which shows that Allen filed an "Appeal from Administrative Decision" on September 16, 2015. Also included is the first page of a supporting memorandum, which claims that MDOC, by adopting certain regulations, violated state statutes by denying a case plan to Allen and other inmates. Although MDOC's designation of the appellate record requested all papers filed in the trial court, no other pages of Allen's appeal or memorandum were included in the record.[1] On November 2, 2015, MDOC filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Allen had neither alleged nor shown that he had exhausted his administrative remedies, that Allen's claim was procedurally barred, and that his appeal was not ripe for adjudication.

         ¶4. On November 6, 2015, the circuit court entered an order granting Allen's request for a case plan. The circuit court found that Allen had sought relief through ARP, and that, on July 21, 2015, MDOC had denied Allen's request for relief on the ground that Mississippi Code Section 47-7-3.1 did not apply "retroactively" to prisoners sentenced before the effective date of the amendment on July 1, 2014. After examining Mississippi Code Section 47-7-3.1, the circuit court rejected MDOC's position, finding that, because Section 47-7-3.1(1) provides that MDOC shall develop a case plan for all parole-eligible inmates, the plain language of the statute mandates that MDOC develop a case plan for all such inmates, including Allen. Although Section 47-7-3.1(2) does say that MDOC must complete a case plan within ninety days of an inmate's admission to MDOC custody, the circuit court found that Section 47-7-3.1(2) merely established a deadline for the completion of case plans for new inmates. The circuit court ordered MDOC to complete Allen's case plan within ninety days.

         DISCUSSION

         I. WHETHER THE CIRCUIT COURT HAD JURISDICTION OVER ALLEN'S APPEAL.

         ¶5. Mississippi Code Section 47-5-807 provides that an inmate aggrieved by a decision of MDOC under ARP may appeal within thirty days after the inmate receives MDOC's final decision. Miss. Code Ann. § 47-5-807 (Rev. 2015). MDOC contends that Allen received its final decision on July 21, 2015, but that he did not file his appeal until September 16, 2015, well past the thirty-day period. MDOC argues that timely filing under Section 47-5-807 is jurisdictional, Stanley v. Turner, 846 So.2d 279, 282 (Miss. Ct. App. 2003), and that, because Allen's appeal was untimely, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction.

         ¶6. Although MDOC asserts in its brief that Allen received its final decision on July 21, 2015, it fails to cite any record evidence that Allen received its final decision on July 21, 2015. And the record does not disclose the date that Allen received the department's final decision. "This Court will consider only those matters that actually appear in the record and does not rely on mere assertions in ...


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