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Willis v. Westley

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 10, 2018

MAC KENZIE WILLIS APPELLANT
v.
LT. WESTLEY, LT. BROOKS AND WARDEN WENDELL BANKS APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/27/2016

          RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN III TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MAC KENZIE WILLIS (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: DARRELL C. BAUGHN

EN BANC.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.,

         ¶1. Mac Kenzie Willis appeals the circuit court's dismissal of his complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Because we find the circuit court had jurisdiction, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Willis is an inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). In January 2006, Willis was convicted of one count of unlawful touching of a child and one count of statutory rape. He was sentenced to fifteen years for the unlawful touching of a child and twenty years for statutory rape, with the sentences to run concurrently, for a total of twenty years to serve in the custody of the MDOC. At all times relevant to this appeal, Willis was housed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.

         ¶3. On September 12, 2016, Willis was issued a rule violation report (RVR) for the possession of major contraband-electronic devices or parts, specifically a cell phone and battery. A disciplinary hearing was held where the hearing officer, Latisha Brooks, [1] found Willis guilty of possession of major contraband. As a result, Willis received an eighteen-month loss of all privileges.

         ¶4. Willis appealed the hearing officer's decision through the MDOC's administrative- remedy program and claimed a violation of due process. Wendell Banks, a warden with the MDOC, reviewed the appeal and found that Willis had received a fair and impartial hearing. As a result, Willis's appeal was denied.

         ¶5. Willis exhausted his administrative remedies pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 47-5-803 (Rev. 2015) and received notice of the MDOC's final decision on November 10, 2016. On December 9, 2016, Willis filed a complaint for judicial review in the Circuit Court of Rankin County pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 47-5-807 (Rev. 2015). The circuit court summarily dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction on December 27, 2016. Willis now appeals and argues he was denied his constitutional right to due process.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶6. The circuit court summarily dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Jurisdictional issues are reviewed de novo. Miller v. Provident Advert. & Mktg. Inc., 155 So.3d 181, 187 (¶15) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014). Additionally, "[t]he appellate standard of review as to dismissal of actions on the pleadings is de novo." Horton v. Epps, 20 So.3d 24, 30 (¶15) (Miss. Ct. App. 2009).

         ¶7. The circuit court did not explain why it lacked jurisdiction. Further, the circuit court did not specify whether it considered subject matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction. Instead, in support of its dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, the circuit court simply cited Moore v. Mississippi Department of Corrections, 936 So.2d 941 (Miss. Ct. App. 2005).

         ¶8. In Moore, the circuit court found it lacked jurisdiction since Moore failed to file his petition in the county where he was detained and failed to file his petition within the statutory thirty-day period following receipt of the MDOC's final decision. Id. at 944 (¶¶13-15). On appeal, we affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Moore's petition and found "that there were ample reasons for finding that the [circuit] court lacked jurisdiction . . . ." Id. at (¶16).

         ¶9. Here, unlike in Moore, the record shows Willis filed his complaint for judicial review in the county where he was detained, i.e., Rankin County. Thus, although not specifically noted, we assume the circuit court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction was based upon Willis's failure to timely seek judicial review of the MDOC's final decision.[2]

         ¶10. Under section 47-5-807, any offender aggrieved by an adverse decision may seek judicial review "within thirty (30) days after receipt of the [MDOC's] final decision." The record indicates Willis filed his complaint for judicial review in the circuit court within thirty days after receipt of the MDOC's final decision, as required by section 47-5-807. However, it appears that when Willis filed his complaint in the circuit court, he failed to attach or include any documentation that showed when he received the MDOC's final decision. Without such ...


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