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State ex rel. Caldwell v. Ohmer

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division, Writ

October 31, 2017

STATE ex rel. MICHAEL CALDWELL, Relator,
v.
HONORABLE STEVEN R. OHMER, Respondent,

         Writ of Mandamus Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Cause No. 1422-CR00028-01

          LAWRENCE E. MOONEY, RESIDING JUDGE.

         The relator, Michael Caldwell, seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the respondent, Judge Steven R. Ohmer, to reinstate his probation and send him to a 120-day program, rather than revoking his probation and ordering execution of his previously imposed and suspended sentence. Because Mr. Caldwell has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to a program, and because the circuit court has the unconditional duty to order Mr. CaldwelPs placement in such a program, we issue a permanent writ of mandamus.

         Factual Background

         Mr. Caldwell pleaded guilty in June of 2014 to possessing a controlled substance, in violation of Section 195.202 RSMo. The circuit court sentenced Mr. Caldwell, as a prior and persistent offender and a prior drug offender, to ten years' imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections. The circuit court suspended execution of the sentence and placed Mr. Caldwell on probation for two years. Nearly two years later, in April of 2016, on the probation board's recommendation, the circuit court extended Mr. CaldwelFs probation for three additional years, to June 11, 2019.

         In January of 2017, the circuit court suspended Mr. Caldwell's probation for violating the conditions of his probation regarding drugs and supervision strategy. Mr. Caldwell waived an evidentiary hearing and admitted that he had violated the conditions of his probation. Although Mr. Caldwell waived an evidentiary hearing on revocation of his probation, he specifically and consistently requested placement in a 120-day program, rather than having his probation revoked and the prison sentence executed. The circuit court, however, revoked Mr. Caldwell's probation and ordered the execution of the previously-imposed sentence often years' imprisonment.

         Mr. Caldwell now seeks a writ of mandamus. He contends that under Section 559.036.4, which governs the duration of probation, he has the right to be continued on probation and participate in a 120-day program, and correspondingly, that the circuit court had a duty to order him into that program instead of revoking his probation and executing the previously-imposed sentence. The Assistant Circuit Attorney, on behalf of Judge Ohmer, and in response to Mr. Caldwell's writ petition, states that Mr. Caldwell "appears eligible for a 120-day program under Section 559.036." Judge Ohmer requests that we remand the cause to the circuit court for further proceedings. We dispense with further briefing and oral arguments as permitted by Rule 84.24(i).

         Discussion

         This Court has the authority to "issue and determine original remedial writs, " including the extraordinary writ of mandamus. Mo. Const, art. V, sec. 4.1; State ex rel Hewitt v. Ken\ 461 S.W.3d 798, 805 (Mo. banc 2015). "A litigant asking relief by mandamus must allege and prove that he has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to the thing claimed" as well as a corresponding present, imperative, and unconditional duty on the part of the respondent to perform the action sought." State ex rel McKee v. Riley, 240 S.W.3d 720, 725 (Mo. banc 2007); Beauchamp v. Monarch Fire Protection District, 471 S.W.3d 805, 810 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015).

         Mr. Caldwell contends that Section 559.036.4 requires his placement in a 120-day program.[1] Section 559.036.4 authorizes placement in a 120-day program if certain conditions are met. The Circuit Attorney's office, on behalf of Judge Ohmer, agrees that Mr. Caldwell meets all the conditions for placement in a 120-day program. With those conditions satisfied, Section 559.036.4 clearly and unambiguously requires that the court order placement of Mr. Caldwell in one of the Department of Corrections' 120-day programs.

         Mr. Caldwell has shown an unequivocal right to placement in a program. The circuit court has the corresponding unconditional duty to order Mr. CaldwelPs placement in such a program. We thus grant Mr. Caldwell's request, and issue our writ of mandamus. The respondent is directed to follow the dictates of Section 559.036.4 and order placement of Mr. Caldwell in one of the Department of Corrections' 120-day programs.

          JAMES M DOWD, CJ and GARY M GAERTNER, JR, J, concur

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