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Devlin v. Christopher

Supreme Court of Montana

July 11, 2017

CHUCK DEVLIN, Petitioner,
v.
HON. KIM CHRISTOPHER, DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, 20TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, STATE OF MONTANA, Respondent.

          ORDER

         By way of supervisory control, Chuck Devlin petitions this Court for relief, challenging his 2006 criminal proceedings and subsequent convictions arising in the Lake County District Court under Cause Nos. DC-06-92 and DC-06-116. Devlin contends that District Court Judge Kim Christopher "intentionally collaborated] with other Justice Officials to cover-up the controlling law of the case in DC-06-92, and falsely appl[ied] the law in DC-06-116." He requests supervisory control pursuant to M. R. App. P. 14 for this Court to "assume jurisdiction and appoint an un-biased Judge [to] allow[] the cause DV 17-45 to continue unhindered[.]" He also moves for appointment of counsel, and for leave to file a copy of a June 23, 2017 District Court Order which denied all of his motions regarding the Judge's disqualification.

         This Court is familiar with Devlin and his criminal proceedings. Devlin has two 2007 convictions from the Lake County District Court. After a jury trial found him guilty, the District Court sentenced Devlin as a persistent felony offender (PFO) to fifty years in prison for kidnapping and obstruction of a peace officer, with no parole eligibility for twenty-five years. In his other proceeding, Devlin pled guilty to bail jumping, and the court sentenced him as a PFO to a twenty-year concurrent term, with fifteen years suspended. He appealed both convictions to this Court. See State v. Devlin, No. DA 07-0760, 2009 MT 18, 349 Mont. 67, 201 P.3d 791 (Devlin I), and State v. Devlin, No. DA 07-0761, 2009 MT 55N, 2009 Mont. LEXIS 64 (Devlin II). This Court affirmed the District Court in the first appeal and affirmed the District Court in the second appeal on all but one issue.[1]

         In 2010, Devlin appeared as a self-represented litigant, and appealed the Lake County District Court's Order, which denied his petition for postconviction relief. Devlin v. State, No. DA 10-0554, 2011 MT 120N, 361 Mont. 536, 264 P.3d 518 (Devlin III). This Court affirmed the District Court's decision. Devlin III, ¶¶ 2, 12. We explained, as the District Court had, that his petition "does not comply with § 46-21-104, MCA[, ]" and Devlin "failed to meet his burden of proof. . . ." Devlin III, ¶ 11.

         Devlin sought habeas corpus relief with this Court in 2013. Devlin v. Kirkegard, No. OP 13-0773, 2013 Mont. LEXIS 572, 2013 WL 6912032 (Dec. 3, 2013) (Devlin IV). We denied his petition and his motion for appointment of counsel, explaining: "This Court does not consider record-based issues in the context of a habeas corpus proceeding." Devlin IV, *3-*4. We also stated that because Devlin had exhausted his remedy of appeal, he is procedurally barred from such relief. Section 46-22-101, MCA.

         Within a month, Devlin petitioned this Court for an out-of-time appeal "in which he assert[ed] that he has discovered new evidence that was not available at the time of his trial or appeal which will establish his actual innocence." Devlin v. State, No. DA 13-0865, 2014 Mont. LEXIS 790, *1 (Jan. 14, 2014) (Devlin V). We denied his petition, pointing out that he raised no new evidence or established any extraordinary circumstances under M. R. App. P 4(6). We noted: "Assuming Devlin had a legitimate issue arising from failure to allow his presence at the omnibus hearing, he could have raised this issue on appeal." Devlin V, *2.

         In January 2015, Devlin petitioned this Court for supervisory control over the Lake County District Court "under M. R. App. P. 14 and in the interest of justice." Devlin v. Mont. Twentieth Judicial Dist. Ct, No. OP 15-0011, 278 Mont. 538, 348 P.3d 670, 2015 Mont. LEXIS 119, *1 (table) (Jan. 20, 2015) (Devlin VI). He asserted claims that he had new evidence showing "that [his] original charges and conviction[s] were obtained under a Mistake of Law and is causing a gross miscarriage of justice." Devlin VI, *2. We denied his petition along with his motions to set aside judgment, to dismiss, and for an evidentiary hearing. Devlin VI, *3-*4.

         Devlin then appealed the Lake County District Court's denial of his second petition for postconviction relief. Devlin v. State, No. DA 15-0159, 2015 MT 295N, 382 Mont. 407, 363 P.3d 1145 (Oct. 13, 2015) (Devlin VII). We affirmed the District Court's conclusion "that it was procedurally barred under multiple criminal procedure statutes applicable to post-conviction proceedings, including §§ 46-21-102, -104, and -105, MCA." Devlin VII, ¶ 5.

         Devlin's instant petition is another attempt to attack his convictions collaterally. This Court has told Devlin before that he has exhausted his habeas corpus remedy because he appealed both of his 2007 convictions. Devlin IV, *4. He sought postconviction relief in the District Court twice, which the court denied. He appealed both decisions, and we affirmed the District Court's denials. Devlin III and Devlin VII. Devlin also presents similar arguments as he has before. He contends his convictions are wrongful and that his incarceration is illegal. Devlin IV, *2; Devlin VI, *4; Devlin VII, ¶ 6. He claims that he has new evidence, which we have pointed out before is not new. Devlin VII, ¶¶ 6, 8. He alleges bias of the presiding judge who refuses "to recuse herself and requests her disqualification, which we have previously denied.[2]

         Boiled down, the relief Devlin seeks is a different outcome of his 2007 convictions. In early 2017, Devlin filed a civil complaint in the Lake County District Court "per the Habeas Doctrine." He claims "wrongful conviction, illegal incarceration [] and" requests an immediate hearing concerning his allegations of fraud. A writ of supervisory control is not the vehicle to reach such result. As we have stated before, "Devlin has not met the threshold for this Court to exercise supervisory control in the District Court." Devlin VI, *2. At a minimum, he must show that the District Court is proceeding under a mistake of law, causing a gross injustice. Redding v. Mont. First Judicial Dist. Ct, 2012 MT 144A, ¶ 18, 365 Mont. 316, 281 P.3d 189. He has not done so. Instead, he seeks this Court's control over a matter because it is not proceeding in a manner he wants. Supervisory control is not warranted, and neither are persistent pleadings concerning his 2007 convictions.

         Under Montana's statutes, the right to seek postconviction relief is not a right that persists ad infinitum. "In short, a conviction becomes final when a defendant's appellate remedies expire or are exhausted." Peterson v. State, 2017 MT 165, ¶ 8, 2017 Mont. LEXIS 359. Devlin has exhausted all of his remedies, and his convictions are final. The doctrine of res judicata bars further claims concerning his criminal convictions. "The policy rationales underlying res judicata are judicial economy and the need for finality of judgments." State v. Southwick, 2007 MT 257, ¶ 15, 339 Mont. 281, 169 P.3d 698. An endpoint is warranted. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED:

1. The petition for a writ of supervisory control is DENIED;
2. The motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED, as moot;
3. The motion for leave to submit recent Court Order and Response Affidavit is DENIED; and
4. Henceforth, prior to filing any original petition, appeal, or pleading with this Court regarding his 2007 convictions and sentences, Devlin is directed to file a motion for leave to file the document. The motion must be sworn under oath before a notary public, not exceed three pages in length, and make a preliminary showing that the motion has merit. Only when this Court has reviewed the motion and issued an order granting leave to file may the Clerk of Court file ...

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