OF JUDGMENT: 09/21/2016
JUDGE: HON. CAROL L. WHITE-RICHARD COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED:
SUNFLOWER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: ANTHONY LOUIS SCHMIDT JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: BRIAN RUNNELS (PRO SE)
Brian Runnels was housed in the Mississippi State
Penitentiary serving a sixteen-year sentence for armed
robbery, a twenty-year sentence for manslaughter, and a
one-year sentence for possession of contraband in
prison. On September 8, 2015, Runnels filed a
grievance through the Mississippi Department of
Corrections' (MDOC) Administrative Remedy Program (ARP).
The basis for his grievance was the issuance of two Rule
Violation Reports (RVRs), for which he was found guilty by
the MDOC hearing officer. RVR No. 01615668 alleged Runnels
blocked the cell door of a prisoner who was being assaulted
by other prisoners, and RVR No. 01615822 claimed Runnels went
into an unauthorized area of the prison. His punishment was a
re-classification and loss of privileges. The MDOC denied his
request to have the RVRs expunged.
Under Mississippi Code Annotated section 45-5-807 (Rev.
2015), Runnels filed a complaint with the Sunflower County
Circuit Court on December 9, 2015, seeking judicial review.
He asserted that the MDOC failed to conduct any investigation
or record the hearing, and he requested that the court
expunge his RVRs from the files. The circuit court affirmed
the MDOC's decision.
Runnels filed a motion to vacate the judgment under
Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), arguing no
evidence had been presented to support the RVRs'
findings. A hearing was held on August 17, 2016, wherein the
State argued that Runnels was "trying to relitigate
th[e] matter" and had not "presented any new
evidence or anything that would fall for grounds for relief
under Rule 60[.]" On September 21, 2016, the circuit
court ordered the two RVRs (01615668 and 01615822) be
expunged from Runnels's prison record because the MDOC
had failed to show "where any officer identified Runnels
as a perpetrator of the acts alleged in the
RVRs." The court determined:
In light of the factors to be considered under M.R.C.P.
60(b)(6), this [c]ourt finds that Petitioner Runnels is not
attempting to use this motion as a substitute appeal and that
he timely filed said motion (approximately a month after
entry of judgment). This [c]ourt previously concluded that
MDOC's decision finding Petitioner guilty of both RVRs
was based on substantial evidence and was not arbitrary and
capricious. After conducting a hearing into this matter, this
[c]ourt has concluded that its previous ruling was wrong.
Respondent failed to present anything during the hearing held
by this [c]ourt to demonstrate that any evidence was
actually presented during Petitioner's disciplinary
hearings upon which the hearing officer's decision could
be based. This [c]ourt finds that in order to fully achieve
justice, its order entered on March 21, 2016 should be
vacated pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) of M.R.C.P.
State appeals, claiming that the MDOC's decision was
supported by substantial evidence and that the circuit court
abused its discretion in granting Runnels relief under Rule
60(b). The State alternatively argues
Runnels's due-process rights were not violated because
the punishment was merely re-classification and loss of
Because Runnels has been released on parole since the filing
of this appeal, we find that these issues are moot and
dismiss the appeal.
In reviewing a circuit court's decision regarding an
agency's action, we apply the same standard of review as
the circuit court, which is to determine "whether the
administrative agency's order '(1) was unsupported by
substantial evidence, (2) was arbitrary or capricious, (3)
was beyond the power of the administrative agency to make, or
(4) violated some statutory or constitutional right of the
aggrieved party.'" Clincy v. Atwood, 65
So.3d 327, 331 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011) (quoting
Clay v. Epps, 19 So.3d 743, 745 (¶7) (Miss. Ct.
App. 2008)). "A rebuttable presumption exists that
favors the decision of the agency, and the challenging party
bears the burden of proving the contrary." Id.
(citing Clay, 19 So.3d at 746 (¶7)). Our review