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Watts v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

October 15, 2019

CHARLES A. WATTS A/K/A CHARLES ARNOLD WATTS A/K/A ERNEST ELDON WOOD Petitioner
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI Respondent

          EN BANC ORDER

          DAVID MICHAEL ISHEE, JUSTICE.

         This matter is before the Court, en banc, on the Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court filed by Charles A. Watts, pro se. On July 23, 1986, this Court unanimously affirmed Watts's conviction and sentence. Watts v. State, 492 So.2d 1281 (Miss. 1986). Subsequently, panels of this Court have denied or dismissed four petitions for post-conviction collateral relief filed by Watts.

         In this application, Watts contends he is entitled to post-conviction collateral relief based on an illegal sentence. After due consideration, the Court finds that this claim is time barred, successive-writ barred, and/or barred by res judicata, and fails to meet any exceptions. Accordingly, the Court finds that the application should be denied.

         The Court further finds that this application is frivolous. Watts is hereby warned that any future filings deemed frivolous may result not only in monetary sanctions but also in restrictions on filing applications for post-conviction collateral relief (or pleadings in that nature) in forma pauperis. See, e.g., En Banc Order, Dunn v. State, 2016-M-01514 (Miss. Apr. 11, 2019) (restricting in forma pauperis status); En Banc Order, Dunn v. State, 2016-M-01514 (Miss. Nov. 15, 2018) (warning of sanctions, including in forma pauperis restrictions).

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court filed by Charles A. Watts, pro se, is hereby denied.

         SO ORDERED.

          TO DENY AND ISSUE SANCTIONS WARNING: RANDOLPH, C.J., COLEMAN, MAXWELL, BEAM, CHAMBERLIN, ISHEE AND GRIFFIS, JJ.

          TO DISMISS: KITCHENS AND KING, P.JJ. KING, P.J., OBJECTS TO THE ORDER IN PART WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN STATEMENT JOINED BY KITCHENS, P.J.

          KING, PRESIDING JUSTICE, OBJECTING TO THE ORDER IN PART WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN STATEMENT:

         ¶1. Although Charles A. Watts's application for post-conviction relief does not merit relief, I disagree with the Court's finding that the application is frivolous and with the warning that future filings deemed frivolous may result in monetary sanctions or restrictions on filing applications for post-conviction collateral relief in forma pauperis.[1]

         ¶2. This Court previously has defined a frivolous motion to mean one filed in which the movant has "no hope of success." Roland v. State, 666 So.2d 747, 751 (Miss. 1995). However, "though a case may be weak or 'light-headed,' that is not sufficient to label it frivolous." Calhoun v. State, 849 So.2d 892, 897 (Miss. 2003). In his application for post-conviction relief, Watts made reasonable arguments that his sentence was illegal. As such, I disagree with the Court's determination that Watts's application is frivolous.

         ¶3. Additionally, I disagree with this Court's warning that future filings may result in monetary sanctions or restrictions on filing applications for post-conviction collateral relief in forma pauperis. The imposition of monetary sanctions on a criminal defendant proceeding in forma pauperis only serves to punish or preclude that defendant from his lawful right to appeal. Black's Law Dictionary defines sanction as "[a] provision that gives force to a legal imperative by either rewarding obedience or punishing disobedience." Sanction, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014) (emphasis added). Instead of punishing the defendant for filing a motion, I believe that this Court should simply deny or dismiss motions that lack merit. As Justice Brennan wisely stated,

The Court's order purports to be motivated by this litigant's disproportionate consumption of the Court's time and resources. Yet if his filings are truly as repetitious as it appears, it hardly takes much time to identify them as such. I find it difficult to see how the amount of time and resources required to deal properly with McDonald's petitions could be so great as to justify the step we now take. Indeed, the time that has been consumed in the preparation of the present order barring the door to Mr. McDonald far exceeds that which would have been necessary to process his petitions for the next several years at least. I continue to find puzzling the Court's fervor in ensuring that rights granted to the poor are not abused, even when so doing actually increases the drain on our limited resources.

In re McDonald, 489 U.S. 180, 186-87, 109 S.Ct. 993, 997, 103 L.Ed.2d 158 (1989) (Brennan, J., ...


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