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August 16, 1983


Original Proceeding in Prohibition

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donnelly

This is prohibition.

The Honorable A. J. Seier, Circuit Judge of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, intends to dismiss with prejudice an information which charges Caren Blair with theft. He proposes to dismiss eleven counts on authority of Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436 (1970) He proposes to dismiss the remaining counts on authority of a statute of limitation. The dismissal of all counts depends on evidence received by the trial court dehors the information.

The prosecutors sought prohibition in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, a provisional rule issued and was made absolute in part and quashed in part. We transferred the case from the Court of Appeals and decide the case the same as on original appeal. Mo. Const. art. V, § 10.

In an ordinary proceeding in prohibition, we would note that prohibition is not a writ of right; that its issuance in a given case is addressed to the sound discretion of this Court; and that the chief purpose of the writ is to prevent the lower court from acting without or in excess of its jurisdiction. See State ex rel. Eggers v. Enright, 609 S.W.2d 381 (Mo. banc 1980). Is there any reason why the same standards should not be applied in this case? In our view, there is. If respondent Seier has jurisdiction of the cause pending in his court (and he does), his decision to dismiss the information, right or wrong, should not be subjected to appellate review.

The parties agree that in the circumstances of this case the State would have no right of appeal from a dismissal of the information. See §§ 547.200 and 547.210, RSMo 1978; State v. Brooks, 372 S.W.2d 83 (Mo. 1963); and State v. Perou, 428 S.W.2d 561 (Mo. 1968). But, relators ask that we determine, in prohibition, whether respondent was right or wrong on the merits.

An analogy can be made to . In State ex rel. Hiett v. Simmons, 112 Mo. App. 535, 538, 539, 87 S.W. 35, 36 (1905), the St. Louis Court of Appeals had before it, on certiorari directed to the county court of Texas County, the decision of a Judge of said court discharging a prisoner on writ of . It was urged that the Texas County court had no authority to discharge the prisoner. The St. Louis Court of Appeals addressed the assertion as follows:

The respondent is the Judge of a court of record and, as such, has authority, in the vacation of his court, to issue writs of for persons alleged to be unlawfully restrained of their liberty, hear their applications for discharge and decide them. [R. S. 1899, sec. 3546.] Now, as the respondent was empowered to issue the writ and decide on the right of the petitioner to a discharge, he was empowered to decide erroneously as well as rightly. In other words, his jurisdiction of subject-matter of the particular case was complete. The doctrine prevails in this State that if an inferior court grants the discharge of a prisoner in a proceeding when he is not entitled to be discharged, the decision is not subject to review by an appellate court, as it is in favor of personal liberty. Of course, if some magistrate or court should undertake to grant the writ when he or it had no jurisdiction to do so, the proceeding might be prohibited or, perhaps, reversed on certiorari. That is not the present case, however, for the Judge of a county court in vacation may grant the writ. In some States the discharge of a prisoner may be reversed in a certiorari proceeding if it appears from the record, and without looking into the evidence, that the proceedings in the matter were irregular or the court had no jurisdiction to issue the writ. [People v. Castle, 5 Hill (N. Y. ) 164; United States v. Wingal, Id. 17; Field v. Putnam, 22 Ga. 93; Livingston v. Livingston, 24 Ga. 379.] What may be done under the writ of certiorari in such a matter in this State never has been decided to our knowledge. But the Supreme Court has decided that an erroneous discharge of a prisoner cannot be reversed on appeal or writ of error; and this was tantamount to deciding that it cannot be reversed on certiorari. The rule is that the decision of the tribunal where the case originated, if it was a tribunal enjoying jurisdiction of the cause, is allowed to stand whether right or wrong. This subject was so thoroughly expounded in Ex Parte Jilz, 64 Mo. 205, that we need not do more than refer to that decision.

In our view, the Simmons language, (supra) , is appropriate in this prohibition proceeding. The decision of the trial court of Cape Girardeau County to dismiss the information, it being a tribunal having jurisdiction of the cause, must be "allowed to stand whether right or wrong."

We anticipate that this opinion may be of minimal precedential value. House Bill No. 279 was enacted in the First Regular Session of the 82nd General Assembly. It repeals §§ 547.200 and 547.230, RSMo 1978, and enacts in lieu thereof two new sections which purport to expand enormously the right of the State of Missouri to appeal in criminal cases.

The provisional rule in prohibition is ordered quashed.

Gunn, J., Lowenstein, Sp.J., and Morgan, Sr.J., concur; Billings, J., concurs in separate opinion filed; Blackmar, J., concurs in result in separate opinion filed; Rendlen, C.J., Dissents; Welliver and Higgins, JJ., not sitting.

I concur in the principal opinion, reserving for another day the soundness of State ex rel. Hiett v. Simmons, 112 Mo. App. 535, 87 S.W. 35 (1905).

I readily agree that Corcoran and Martin should no longer be followed. The State, in this proceeding, as in Corcoran and Martin, seeks to enlist our aid in circumventing the existing law of no right ...

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