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Lewis v. Kowalski

Supreme Court of Montana

October 30, 2018

LILLY JO LEWIS, Petitioner,


         Lilly Jo Lewis has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, indicating that she is being held in the Missoula County Detention Center with an excessive bail, making her incarceration illegal. She includes several attachments with her petition.

         Lewis presents a twenty-six-page, single-spaced petition with forty-nine pages of appendices. As a threshold matter, Lewis's petition exceeds limitations on length of petitions that may be filed with this Court as it is clearly in excess of 4, 000 words or twelve pages. M. R. App. P. l4(9)(b). We require all litigants to comply with Court rules and could dismiss the petition on this basis alone.

         Lewis asserts that she has been unlawfully detained. Lewis explains that she arrived in jail after her arrest on August 21, 2018, in Beaverhead County, Montana. She adds that she and her daughter are lawful Montana residents since September 11, 2017. Lewis argues that her arrest, confinement, and Order of Commitment are all illegal. She points to § 46-30-302, MCA, and contends this Order should be for only thirty days, not ninety days as stated. She states that the Justice Court Judge decreased her $100, 000 bond to $10, 000 cash only. Lewis contends that this is "an insult to the integrity of the court to such an [egregious] amount in cash appearing to be a reduction but is the same amount the [Petitioner] would [have] had to pay a bondsman." She requests to be released on her own recognizance.

         Lewis's attachments to her instant petition provide more context here. She includes copies of an arrest warrant and criminal complaint from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, which were all issued on August 6, 2018, and the August 23, 2018 Missoula County Justice Court Order of Commitment. Lewis has been charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, in violation of federal law, as of June 1, 2018. The Justice Court's Order of Commitment reads that Lewis was charged with felony child abduction in Missouri and has fled. This Order imposed a ninety-day commitment. An October 1, 2018 Justice Court letter informs Lewis that she still is represented by a public defender.

         We secured a copy of the Justice Court docket. The court appointed a public defender on August 23, 2018, and she had an appearance on September 7, 2018. A status hearing was held on September 21, 2018.

         Lewis is not entitled to habeas corpus relief. Habeas corpus affords applicants an opportunity to challenge collaterally the legality of their present incarceration. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA; Lott v. State, 2006 MT 279, ¶ 9, 334 Mont. 270, 150 P.3d 337. She is not being held illegally, and the reason for her detention is evident. Lewis is not entitled to release on her own recognizance. She is being held until the Governor issues a warrant for her arrest and her return to Missouri. Section 46-30-215, MCA.

         While Lewis does not demonstrate illegal incarceration in her petition and we do not have the complete record for review, this Court has concerns about the Justice Court's August 23, 2018 Order of Commitment, imposing a ninety-day commitment initially. Under Montana statutes, a court may impose for a person, who has fled from justice after the alleged commission of a crime, a commitment "to the county jail for a time not exceeding 30 days . . . ." Section 46-30-302, MCA. A court may extend a commitment for another sixty days after a bail amount is changed or a governor's warrant has not issued, pursuant to § 46-30-304, MCA. It is unclear whether the court considered a change of circumstances to issue a ninety-day commitment initially instead of a thirty-day commitment.

         Lewis is represented by counsel who has filed motions, including bond reduction, on her behalf. Lewis has also filed a. pro se petition with this Court. Only counsel should file motions and papers with the Courts on her behalf. Courts may properly refuse to accept pro se pleadings from defendants who are represented by counsel. State v. Samples, 2005 MT 210, ¶ 15, 328 Mont. 242, 119 P.3d 1191.

         This Court also cautions Lewis to refrain from filing pleadings, for which she has not personally drafted or signed. Lewis includes a second petition for habeas corpus relief, which she states was drafted and signed by family members. This is an unauthorized practice of law because her family members are not licensed to practice law in Montana. Section 37-61-416, MCA. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that Lewis's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED.

         The Clerk of the Supreme Court is directed to provide a copy of this Order to Missoula County Justice Court, Judge Marie A. Andersen; to Erynn Flaherty, Missoula County Justice Court Clerk, Department 1; to Caitlin Schwinden Williams, Missoula County Attorney's ...

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