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Sandknop v. Mo. Dept. of Corrs

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

July 16, 2018

MO. DEPT. OF CORRS., et al, Defendants.



         In this pro se § 1983 action for money damages brought by a state inmate against prison officials, before the Court are the remaining Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (doc. 16) and Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (doc. 24). For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED IN PART, the Motion for Appointment of Counsel will be DENIED as moot, and the case will be DISMISSED for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.


         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants wrongly incarcerated him for approximately eight months longer than he should have been held. On July 12, 2013, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to one count of driving while intoxicated as a “chronic offender.” On the same day, the state circuit court judge sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment as a chronic offender under § 577.023.[2] Section 577.023.6(4) provided at all relevant times that “[n]o chronic offender shall be eligible for parole or probation until he or she has served a minimum of two years imprisonment.”[3] The judge then suspended execution of the 10-year sentence and ordered Plaintiff to complete Missouri's “Long Term Treatment Program for offenders with serious substance abuse addictions” under § 217.362, which states as follows:

[T]he court may sentence a person to the program which shall consist of institutional drug or alcohol treatment for a period of at least twelve and no more than twenty-four months, as well as a term of incarceration. The department [of corrections] shall determine the nature, intensity, duration, and completion criteria of the education, treatment, and aftercare portions of any program services provided. Execution of the offender's term of incarceration shall be suspended pending completion of said program. . . .
Upon successful completion of the program, the board of probation and parole shall advise the sentencing court of an offender's probationary release date thirty days prior to release. If the court determines that probation is not appropriate the court may order the execution of the offender's sentence.

Section 217.362.2, .3.

         On March 26, 2014, the judge issued an “Order for Release” stating that Plaintiff would “be placed on probation for a period of 3 years beginning 7-11-15” and that Plaintiff was “to be released on/about 7-11-15”-approximately two years after the date of sentencing. Plaintiff completed the Ozark Correctional Center's (“OCC's”) Long Term Treatment Program on May 1, 2014. On July 14, 2014, the judge issued an “Amended Order of Probation Pursuant to Section 559.115 RSMo” stating that Plaintiff would be placed on five years of probation and “released from the Department of Corrections to begin said probation on/about December 20, 2014, or as soon thereafter as may be practicable.” According to the briefs filed by the Missouri Attorney General and Plaintiff's counsel in the Missouri Court of Appeals, the judge revised the release date to give Plaintiff jail time credit toward the two-year incarceration requirement for chronic offenders.[4]

         Plaintiff then sought a writ of mandamus in the Missouri Court of Appeals, claiming he should have been released when he competed the Long Term Treatment Program. The court of appeals granted a writ in favor of Plaintiff and declared that, under its previous decision in State ex rel. Salm v. Mennemeyer, 423 S.W.3d 319 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014), the circuit court judge was required to “either release the defendant on probation or execute the defendant's sentence if the court determines that probation is not appropriate.” Sandknop v. Goldman, 450 S.W.3d 499, 502-03 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). The court of appeals “decline[d] to reach the question” of whether there was a conflict between § 217.362 (the statute authorizing the Long Term Treatment Program) and § 577.023 (the chronic-offender statute) because, “under the terms of the Amended Order, [the judge] did not act under either statute.” Id. at 502 n.2. Instead, the court of appeals held that the amended order was “contrary to law” because it was improperly based on § 559.115. Id. at 503 & n.3. The court of appeals then ordered the circuit court, on remand, to “comply with the limited authority granted by § 217.362.” Id. at 503.

         On remand, the circuit court judge issued the following order: “Pursuant to 74.06(a) the Court amends its Order of 7-14-14 to delete the words Section 559.115 and substitutes in its place Sections 217.362 & 577.023 RSMo. The Order remains the same with these additions.” The judge then ordered Plaintiff's immediate release, subject to five years of probation. Ultimately, however, Plaintiff's probation was revoked, and he is now re-incarcerated.

         Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) Initially, the Court permitted Plaintiff an opportunity to amend the Complaint to state his allegations with more specificity. (Doc. 9.) The Amended Complaint names the following defendants: (1) the Missouri Department of Corrections; (2) the Missouri Department of Corrections, Board of Probation and Parole; (3) Aaron Jarrett, the former probation and parole supervisor at OCC; and (4) Brian O'Connell, the warden of OCC. (Doc. 10.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had an “obligation to release [him] after his successful completion of long-term treatment.” (Id. at 4.) He also claims that “sometime in late March 2014, ” Mr. Jarett “contacted Judge Goldman by phone and mislead [sic] him into believing that OCC had a 2 year treatment and that they had jurisdiction for 2 years.” (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff argues that Defendants violated his due process right to liberty during the period of allegedly wrongful incarceration, and he seeks damages for the time he spent in prison between May 1, 2014 and December 18, 2014. (Id. at 3-4, 8-9.) The Amended Complaint also alleges state-law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. (Id. at 4.)

         The Court previously dismissed the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole from the case, and only Jarrett and O'Connell remain as defendants. (Doc. 9.) They have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim (doc. 16), and Plaintiff has filed suggestions in opposition (doc. 18) and a motion for appointment of counsel (doc. 24).

         Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). The Court “accept[s] the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Although the Court liberally construes a pro se complaint, it “still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.” Stone v. ...

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