Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COLE COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE
DANIEL R. GREEN, JUDGE
Before: Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Lisa White
Hardwick, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge
C. HOWARD, JUDGE
Gray appeals the judgment of the Cole County Circuit Court
dismissing his petition. In two points on appeal, Gray claims
the trial court erred when it found a lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and when it found he failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies. We reverse and remand.
currently confined in a facility maintained by the Missouri
Department of Corrections ("the Department"). On
July 11, 2018, Gray filed a petition for declaratory judgment
in the Cole County Circuit Court. He claimed he was entitled
to six years of additional jail-time credit toward service of
his sentences. The Department filed a motion to dismiss
alleging that Gray had failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies before filing the petition and, thus, the court
lacked jurisdiction to grant the requested relief. The trial
court found it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and
dismissed Gray's petition This appeal follows.
Court reviews the trial court's grant of a motion to
dismiss de novo." Foster v. State, 352
S.W.3d 357, 359 (Mo. banc 2011). "In reviewing the
propriety of the trial court's dismissal of the petition,
this Court considers the grounds raised in the
defendant's motion to dismiss and does not consider
matters outside the pleadings." Id. "In
determining whether a motion to dismiss should have been
granted, the appellate court reviews the petition in an
almost academic manner, to determine if the facts alleged
meet the elements of a recognized cause of action, or of a
cause that might be adopted in that case." Id.
(internal quotation omitted). "If the motion to dismiss
can be sustained on any ground alleged in the motion, the
trial court's ruling will be affirmed." Id.
(internal quotation omitted).
first point on appeal, Gray claims the trial court erred in
finding it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. He argues that
failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative
defense. We agree.
to section 506.384.1, "No civil action may be brought by
an offender, except for a constitutional deprivation, until
all administrative remedies are exhausted." After Gray
filed his petition for declaratory judgment, the Department
filed a motion to dismiss which cited Adams v.
Schriro, 31 S.W.3d 461 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000), and alleged
that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction
because Gray had not exhausted all administrative remedies.
The trial court dismissed the petition. Its judgment also
cited Adams and stated: "Because Gray has not
exhausted his administrative remedies, this Court does not
have subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the relief Gray
was decided prior to J.C.W. ex rel. Webb v.
Wyciskalla, 275 S.W.3d 249, 254 (Mo. banc 2009), which
rejected jurisdictional competency arguments. Accordingly,
while section 506.384 identified statutory prerequisites to
an offender filing a civil action against the Department,
those statutory prerequisites do not impact a circuit
court's subject matter jurisdiction.
Webb, the Missouri Supreme Court made clear that
there are only two kinds of jurisdiction: subject matter
jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. Id. at 252.
The Court explained:
In evaluating the jurisdiction of circuit courts, there are
cases that, in dicta, purport to recognize a third
concept, "jurisdictional competence," which often
is confused with subject matter jurisdiction.... [T]hese
cases generally concern situations in which there is no
question as to the court's authority to decide the
general issue before it, but there is a question whether the
issue or parties affected by the court's judgment are
properly before it for resolution at that time.... [T]hese
cases do not question the court's subject matter ...