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Franklin v. State

Supreme Court of Iowa

December 15, 2017

KEVIN KEL FRANKLIN, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Union County, John D. Lloyd, Judge.

         A prisoner appeals a district court order finding it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear his case. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Unes J. Booth of Booth Law Firm, Osceola, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, and Timothy R. Kenyon, County Attorney, for appellee.

          WIGGINS, Justice.

         A prisoner filed a postconviction-relief action claiming the policy of the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) in delaying the start date of the sex offender treatment program (SOTP) based on a sex offender's tentative discharge date unlawfully extended his time in prison. The district court held it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the prisoner's challenge under Iowa Code section 822.2 (2015). On appeal, we find the proper analysis is not one of subject matter jurisdiction but a lack of authority to hear the case. We additionally find the district court did have authority to hear the case and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In 1990, Kevin Franklin pled guilty to murder in the second degree and sexual abuse in the second degree. The district court consecutively sentenced him to an indeterminate term not to exceed fifty years for the murder and an indeterminate term not to exceed twenty-five years for the sexual abuse. We affirmed the convictions on direct appeal on June 21, 1991, and procedendo issued on July 12. Franklin has been eligible for parole since 2012 and has a tentative discharge date of 2033.

         On November 5, 2015, Franklin filed a pro se application for postconviction relief stating he was "otherwise unlawfully held in custody or other restraint"-language identical to Iowa Code section 822.2(1)(e)- and a motion for correction of an illegal sentence.[1] In these two filings, Franklin alleged the IDOC required him to complete SOTP yet continually denied his requests to participate in SOTP because it was not yet time.

         Franklin argued the IDOC decision to withhold SOTP until a sex offender was within two to three years from discharging was "being done intentionally and maliciously as a way for the IDOC to artificially lengthen his sentence and effectively remove any meaningful chance of parole or work release." Franklin contended the IDOC was fully aware the Iowa Board of Parole (IBOP) would not consider a sex offender for parole before the sex offender's completion of SOTP. He likened the IDOC policy to the imposition of a silent mandatory minimum.

         On February 3, 2016, the State moved for summary judgment, arguing, "[n]o factual nor legal basis exists to support the allegations made by [Franklin]" under the listings set out in chapter 822. The State further argued Franklin's challenge, although labeled as a "motion to correct illegal sentence, " was more accurately characterized as a parole or administrative issue.

         On July 6, the district court granted the State's motion for summary judgment on the ground it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed the case. After noting Maghee v. State, 773 N.W.2d 228 (Iowa 2009), and Davis v. State, 345 N.W.2d 97 (Iowa 1984), involved disciplinary actions reviewable under chapter 822, the district court reasoned Franklin's case was not a disciplinary action. The district court also noted the IDOC was lawfully holding Franklin in custody under his sentence, and Franklin's sentence itself was legal. The district court ruled Franklin "must pursue other remedies to challenge the policy" without specifying what those "other remedies" might be.

          II. "Subject Matter Jurisdiction" Versus "Authority to Hear a Case."

         Before reaching the issue in this case, we again stress the difference between "subject matter jurisdiction" and "authority" to hear a particular case. In I ...


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