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Robinson v. Mississippi Department of Corrections

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 21, 2017

PAUL ROBINSON APPELLANT
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS APPELLEE

          Date of Judgment: 03/11/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LEAKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. VERNON R. COTTON TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: PAUL ROBINSON (PRO SE).

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

         EN BANC.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. Paul Robinson filed a pro se action in Leake County Circuit Court, seeking review of two decisions rendered under the Mississippi Department of Corrections' (MDOC) Administrative Remedies Program (ARP). In his petition, he alleged the MDOC improperly withdrew funds from his inmate account, and he sought relief in the form of reimbursement, legal fees, and punitive damages. However, Robinson filed his complaint against Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (Walnut Grove), not the MDOC, and he failed to serve process on either Walnut Grove or the MDOC. The circuit court summarily dismissed the claims, and Robinson filed this appeal. On June 17, 2016, this Court ordered that Walnut Grove be dismissed as a party and that the MDOC be substituted in its place.

         ¶2. Finding the circuit court had jurisdiction and cause to dismiss Robinson's claim sua sponte, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. Robinson was convicted of murder in Bolivar County Circuit Court in June 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison. After serving time at the Greene County Correctional Facility, Robinson was transferred to Walnut Grove. On April 11, 2013, Robinson requested legal mail services in the amount of $13.88. Since his inmate account balance was only $2.38 at the time services were rendered, the funds for the services were later withdrawn automatically from his account on May 21, 2013, when his balance was sufficient to cover the overdue costs. This withdrawal of funds was in accordance with the MDOC's policy.[1]On September 3, 2013, Robinson filed a complaint under the ARP, alleging he was overcharged by $13.88 on his inmate account. In its first-step-response form, the MDOC explained to Robinson that he was charged $13.88 for legal mail services rendered in April 2013. Robinson proceeded to the second step in the ARP, and his claim was again rejected. On January 16, 2014, Robinson acknowledged the MDOC's final decision to reject his complaint. Robinson did not appeal this decision to the circuit court within the required thirty days.[2]

         ¶4. Subsequently, on July 10, 2014, Robinson mailed five separate letters, costing $5.32 each and totaling $26.60 in legal mailing fees. Again, his inmate account balance was insufficient to cover the fees; so his account was not charged until November 16, 2014, after $50.00 had been deposited into the account. In January 2015, Robinson filed another complaint under the ARP, arguing the November 2014 charge was incorrect. After his complaint was rejected, he went through the remaining steps of the ARP process, and on February 24, 2015, the MDOC entered a final decision, finding no merit to his claim.

         ¶5. Robinson filed a complaint with the Leake County Circuit Court on March 9, 2015. He sought reimbursement for the disputed withdrawals in September 2013 and November 2014. Although he was disputing the MDOC's decision to reject his earlier claims, Robinson named Walnut Grove as a party. The MDOC was not named as a party, nor was it served with process.

         ¶6. The circuit court summarily dismissed Robinson's claims, and Robinson timely appealed the court's judgment. On March 21, 2016, Walnut Grove filed a motion to dismiss based on the grounds that it was not a legal entity subject to suit, was never served process, and had no involvement in handling Robinson's inmate account. On June 7, 2016, this Court denied the motion to dismiss the appeal. However, we dismissed Walnut Grove as a party to the suit, the MDOC ...


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