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Lewis v. Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 2, 2018

CHRIS LEWIS
v.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS

          Appealed from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Number C637150, Honorable Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding.

          Chris Lewis Jackson, LA Plaintiff/Appellant, pro se.

          Jonathan R. Vining Baton Rouge, LA, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.

          WHIPPLE, C.J.

         Chris Lewis, an inmate in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections ("DPSC"), housed at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana, seeks to appeal the June 20, 2017 judgment of the district court, which dismissed his petition for judicial review at DPSC's costs. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Lewis is currently serving a sixty-year sentence for armed robbery, running concurrently with a twenty-year sentence for first degree robbery, as imposed on April 8, 1991. In April 2014, Lewis filed a request for administrative remedy procedure ("ARP"), DCI-2014-275, in which he alleged that his master record miscalculated his release date information because it failed to accurately reflect his entitlement to earn good time credits at an increased rate ("double good time") pursuant to Act 138 of the 1991 regular legislative session, as well as failed to accurately reflect good time credits that had been reinstated. Lewis contended that while his original master record reflected his entitlement to double good time, he received a miscalculated master record in February 1991, together with a cover page that indicated he had refused double good time. He further contended that his master record did not reflect his parole eligibility date.

         After relief was denied at both steps of the administrative level, Lewis filed a petition for judicial review in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court on February 26, 2015, contending that he was entitled to double good time from the imposition of his sentence. In its answer to Lewis's petition, DPSC denied that Lewis was entitled to earn good time at an increased rate. However, contrary to its previous position, DPSC ultimately filed an Exception of Subject Matter Jurisdiction in the district court below on March 15, 2017, contending that the matter was now moot because there no longer existed a justiciable controversy. Specifically, DPSC represented that despite initially denying Lewis's ARP request, a decision had been made to grant his grievance, and he had in fact been granted double good time. Attached to its exception was a March 10, 2017 copy of Lewis's amended master prison record, listing a good time release date of September 21, 2023, instead of the prior release date of July 3, 2032.

         Thereafter, in response to the district court's request for clarification regarding Lewis's good time calculations, DPSC filed a Notice of Compliance on April 4, 2017, clarifying that 1991 La. Acts, No. 138 (providing for double good time) applied prospectively only to that portion of Lewis's sentence that remained after January 1, 1992, the effective date of Act 138.[1] DPSC further explained that Lewis had lost a total of 315 days of good time due to forfeitures. To the Notice of Compliance, DPSC attached another copy of Lewis's master prison record, which set forth the good time credits that had been forfeited.

         Lewis opposed the exception, contending that while DPSC had recalculated his sentence, it failed to properly calculate and credit his double good time retroactive to the date of sentencing.

         On May 24, 2017, the Commissioner issued his report, in which he concluded that because DPSC had granted Lewis the relief he sought while his petition for judicial review was pending, the issue in Lewis's ARP request is now moot. However, the Commissioner noted that the issue of payment of costs still remained and determined that DPSC should be cast with costs given that its "unnecessary delay" in acting on Lewis's ARP request necessitated this suit. Accordingly, the Commissioner recommended that Lewis's petition for judicial review be dismissed at DPSC's cost. By judgment dated June 20, 2017, the district court dismissed Lewis's petition for judicial review with prejudice at DPSC's costs, in accordance with the Commissioner's recommendation. Notice of judgment was mailed to the parties on June 22, 2017.

         Dissatisfied with the relief he received, Lewis sought to obtain review of the June 20, 2017 judgment in this court. Specifically, on August 21, 2017, Lewis filed a "Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, "[2] and, thereafter on August 31, 2017, he filed a "Motion for Notice of Extension of Time to File Appeal." On September 12, 2017, the district court denied Lewis's Motion for Notice of Extension of Time to File Appeal, with the handwritten notation that "[t]he Court has no authority to extend the time for taking an Appeal."

         In January 2018, Lewis attempted to file a "Motion to Appeal In Forma Pauperis" with the district court. The district court then mailed Lewis an appellate pauper form on January 26, 2018. The completed pauper papers were filed on March 5, 2018, and the district court granted Lewis's appeal by order dated March 12, 2018. Lewis's motion and order ...


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