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Simmons v. Acton

Supreme Court of Montana

July 30, 2013

MAYSON SIMMONS, Petitioner,
v.
JO ACTON, Respondent.

ORDER

Mayson Simmons (Simmons) raises various issues in support of her claim for habeas corpus. The State of Montana (State) has filed a response in which it argues that Simmons has stated no grounds for relief

Simmons claims that the Board of Pardons and Parole (Board) denied her parole on April 23, 2012, without the opportunity to examine her parole file. She claims that a parole report suggested that she had sold marijuana to a confidential informant and that she would victimize others if released. Simmons claims that she has been harassed, retaliated against, and bullied by other inmates and staff. Simmons admits in the petition, that following an internal investigation into these allegations, the chief investigator told her that "things should start to settle down" for her.

Simmons complains that her First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights have been violated and that her "right to know" guaranteed in § 2-6-102, MCA, has been infringed. Simmons claims that the grievance officer improperly upheld "write-ups" against her and that the State has withheld a mental health report from her. As a result of these transgressions, Simmons claims to have suffered various injuries and damages.

The State has attached exhibits to its response that include affidavits and other documents, and a judgment and commitment from the Ravalli District Court dated September 30, 2010. The judgment and commitment indicates that in Cause No. DC 09-124, the information was amended, that Simmons pled guilty to two counts of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs, "no contest" to one count of tampering with a witness. The judgment and commitment further indicate that in Cause No. DC-10-015, Simmons pled guilty to theft by insurance fraud. The District Court found no justification for Simmons' crimes and that a State Hospital evaluation indicated that Simmons likely was to commit other crimes if given the opportunity. The aggregate sentences imposed for all charges constituted 20 years to Montana Women's Prison, with ten years suspended. This Court affirmed. State v. Simmons, 2011 MT 264, 362 Mont. 306, 264 P.3d 706.

The State maintains that Simmons has failed to state a sufficient claim that her incarceration is illegal and that this Court is not obliged to determine whether Simmons' other constitutional rights have been violated. The State notes that claims related to Simmons' conditions of confinement do not rise to the level that her incarceration is illegal and that in March of 2013, Simmons made "virtually identical" claims to the Human Rights Bureau, (HRB) which are presently the subject of a Human Rights investigation. (Exhibit '2' to response.)

Contained within Exhibit "D, " the case disposition, the Board identified reasons for denying Simmons parole: the nature or severity of the offenses, pattern of similar offenses, multiple offenses, and a strong objection from criminal justice authorities and/or citizenry. A reappearance was scheduled for April 2014.

The State explains that Simmons failed to request formal review of her parole file until months after her April, 2012 hearing. The Board has informed Simmons that she will be allowed to review her file prior to her next scheduled hearing. Finally, the State has stipulated to provide Simmons with a copy of any mental health reports that she requests.

Simmons's offense history substantiates the parole report's alleged statement that Simmons was likely to victimize others if released. Simmons's offense history also substantiates the District Court's finding that a State Hospital report indicated if given the opportunity, she was likely to reoffend. Accordingly, this claim lacks merit.

In McDermott v. McDonald, we concluded that parole is not a right, but a "discretionary grant of freedom from incarceration." McDermott v. McDonald, 2001 MT 89, ¶ 24, 305 Mont. 166, 24 P.3d 200. "Once lawfully sentenced ... a prisoner is not entitled to release prior to the completion of his [her] full sentence." In the context of a parole proceeding, "[D]ue process is satisfied when the prisoner seeking parole is, at a minimum, provided with an opportunity to be heard and a written statement explaining why he [she] was denied." McDermott, ¶¶ 10-11. Consequently, the Board afforded Simmons all of the process she was due and did not exceed its jurisdiction.

Habeas corpus affords applicants an opportunity to challenge collaterally the legality of their present incarceration. Lott v. State, 2006 MT 279, ¶ 9, 334 Mont. 270, 150 P.3d 337. A habeas corpus proceeding is not appropriate for litigation of claims that arise from allegations of other violations of constitutional rights, including conditions of confinement. Simmons's allegations do not state a claim of illegal incarceration. To the extent that Simmons' HRB claim parallels claims raised here, the HRB remains the proper forum for adjudicating those allegations.

IT IS ORDERED that since the State has agreed to provide Simmons with any mental health report she requests, this claim is DENIED, as moot.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the remaining claims are DENIED.


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