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Stanfield v. State

Supreme Court of Montana

April 4, 2018

KERRY C. STANFIELD, Petitioner and Appellant,


         Representing himself, Kerry C. Stanfield petitions this Court for a writ of certiorari. He requests relief from a February 1, 2018 Powell County District Court Order, in which the court denied his Motion for Relief from Judgment under M. R. Civ. P. 60. Raising several issues regarding his criminal proceedings in the District Court, Stanfield asserts his conviction is void based upon how it was commenced.

         This Court is familiar with Stanfield's criminal history. In 2008, a jury convicted Stanfield of sexual assault. The Powell County District Court sentenced him to a forty-year prison term with ten years suspended and imposed a fifteen-year parole restriction. Stanfield appealed. State v. Stanfield, No. DA 08-0859. His appointed counsel filed an Anders[2] brief to which Stanfield responded. This Court dismissed the appeal on June 30, 2009.

         In a July 19, 2011 Order, this Court denied Stanfield's petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he raised many claims, including that "his sentence was predicated upon false information which violated his due process rights." Stanfield v. Frink, No. OP 11-0295, Order (Mont, Jul. 19, 2011). We concluded that he presented no argument challenging the legality of his imprisonment or restraint; that he had exhausted his right to appeal; and that he was otherwise improperly attempting to collaterally attack his sentence.

         In the instant petition, Stanfield considers his underlying criminal proceeding "void" and requests further review. He contends that the commencement of prosecution violated his due process rights and that the plain language of § 46-11-201(2), MCA, providing for the filing of an Information, does not clearly express the "intent of the Framers[.]" He states that there should be "an adversarial hearing" prior to the district judge "granting leave to file information." Upon the basis of a void conviction, he seeks a writ of review because "[t]here is no need to appeal from a judgment that is void." Heinle v. Fourth Judicial Dist. Ct, 260 Mont. 489, 495, 861 P.2d 171, 175 (1993). He requests that the lower court "lawfully" indict him, give him a valid trial within 60 days, or dismiss "the charges with prejudice due to the lack of a speedy trial."

         Stanfield is correct that this Court may determine such "original and remedial writs as may be necessary . . ." under the Montana Rules of Appellate Procedure. M. R. App. P. 14(1). A writ of certiorari "shall be commenced and conducted in the manner prescribed by the applicable sections of the Montana Code Annotated. . . ." M. R. App. P. 14(2). Pursuant to § 27-25-102(2), MCA, this Court may grant a writ of review "when a lower tribunal . . . has exceeded the jurisdiction of the tribunal. . . and there is no appeal, or in the judgment of the court, any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy." (Emphasis added).

         We discern Stanfield's argument as being that the District Court never had jurisdiction over his offense, based on his interpretation of the legislative history and Convention Delegates' intent of §46-11-201(2), MCA. However, Stanfield does not present any argument that the District Court exceeded its jurisdiction. See Mosely v. Lake County, 256 Mont. 206, 208, 845 P.2d 732, 734 (1993) (Lake County Justice Court exceeded its jurisdiction by imposing a fine greater than that allowed by § 3-10-303(2), MCA (1991), of the fish and game statutes). Stanfield appears to argue that the Delegates intended a hearing be held prior to commencement of proceedings in district court under the Montana Constitution.

          Article II, Section 20 of the Montana Constitution addresses the way criminal proceedings may be initiated:

All criminal actions in district court, except those on appeal, shall be prosecuted either by information, after examination and commitment by a magistrate or after leave granted by the court, or by indictment without such examination, commitment or leave.

Consistent with this constitutional provision, section 46-11-201, MCA (2005), provides:

(1)The prosecutor may apply directly to the district court for permission to file an information against a named defendant. If the defendant named is a district court judge, the prosecutor shall apply directly to the supreme court for leave to file the information.
(2)An application must be by affidavit supported by evidence that the judge or chief justice may require. If it appears that there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed by the defendant, the judge or chief justice shall grant leave to file the information, otherwise the application is denied.
(3) When leave to file an information has been granted, a warrant or summons may issue for the defendant's arrest or appearance.

See also § 45-1-205(8), MCA (2005) ("A prosecution is commenced either when an indictment is found or an information or complaint is filed.'[1]). Accordingly, there is no constitutional requirement for an adversaria] hearing prior ...

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