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Pierce v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

October 8, 2019

ROBERT S. PIERCE, Petitioner,
LYNN GUYER, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent.


         Robert S. Pierce has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, requesting relief from his "illegal detainment." He also moves this Court to recuse Chief Justice Mike McGrath from ruling on his petition because of this Court's recent Opinion, affirming the denial of his petition for postconviction relief.

         A jury found Pierce guilty of sexual intercourse without consent and sexual assault of his step-granddaughter in April 2013. On December 10, 2013, the Third Judicial District Court, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, sentenced Pierce to a forty-year term at Montana State Prison (MSP) with twenty-five years suspended for the sexual intercourse without consent conviction, and for the sexual assault conviction, imposed a concurrent twenty-five year sentence at MSP. The District Court placed a parole ineligibility restriction often years and designated him a Tier I sexual offender. Pierce received 229 days of credit for time served.

         Through counsel, Pierce appealed, challenging the District Court's denial of his motions for discovery sanctions-specifically a continuance-and a mistrial. State v. Pierce, 2016 MT 308, ¶ 15, 385 Mont. 439, 384 P.3d 1042 (Pierce I). We affirmed and stated that "[t]he District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Pierce's request for a discovery sanction in the form of a continuance. The District Court similarly did not abuse its discretion in denying Pierce's motion for mistrial." Pierce I, ¶¶ 29, 30.

         As a self-represented litigant, Pierce has since had two other appeals with this Court. In 2015, while his appeal was pending with this Court, he filed a civil suit in District Court against the law enforcement officers who investigated the criminal complaints, the mother of the victim, the victim, and Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, "alleging conspiracy, defamation, intimidation, false reports, and various civil rights violations, including both state claims and federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Pierce v. Barkell et al., No. DA 17-0472, 2018MT 53N, ¶ 4, 2018 Mont LEXIS 66 (Pierce II).[1] We affirmed the District Court's decision to grant summary judgment on each party's motion "because Pierce was collaterally estopped from re-litigating the issues already decided in his criminal case." Pierce II, ¶ 7. We pointed out that Pierce raised matters that could or should have been raised in his underlying criminal proceeding. Pierce II, ¶ 15. "Because Pierce's civil suit is an impermissible collateral attack on the validity of the criminal conviction, the District Court correctly granted summary judgment in Appellees' favor." Pierce II, ¶ 15.

         In 2017, Pierce filed a petition for postconviction relief in the District Court. The court denied his petition, and he appealed. Pierce v. State, No. DA 18-0404, 2019 MT 124N, 2019Mont. LEXIS 198. Pierce challenged the denials of his actual innocence claim and of his ineffectiveness assistance of counsel claims. Pierce III, ¶¶ 8-9. We affirmed. Pierce III, ¶¶2, 17.

         Now Pierce requests his release because he contends that "false information" was used in the prosecuting documents and was the basis for not admitting forensic interviews. He includes excerpts of testimony from his trial and his federal civil case in his twenty-eight-page petition. He cites to case law and statutes, raising issues of new evidence, perjury, due process and other constitutional rights' violations. Pierce further argues that the District Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that there was a lack of probable cause to indict, resulting in violations of his right to be free from double jeopardy. He requests his release so he may seek "other legal remedies available to him[.]"

         Pierce has exhausted his remedies with this Court concerning his 2013 conviction and sentence. He cannot demonstrate illegal incarceration. A writ of habeas corpus is not available to attack the sentence of a person who has been adjudged guilty of an offense and has exhausted the remedy of appeal. Section 46-22-101(2), MCA; Lott v. State, 2006 MT 279, ¶¶ 4, 19, 334 Mont. 270, 150 P.3d 337. Pierce appealed, and thus, he has exhausted his remedy of appeal. He cannot relitigate these claims by way of habeas corpus. Pierce is now procedurally barred from prosecuting a petition for habeas corpus because these issues were, or could have been, raised in his appeal. See Rudolph v. Day, 273 Mont. 309, 311, 902 P.2d 1007, 1008 (1995). We have stated as much before. Pierce II, ¶ 8; Pierce III, ¶ 15.

         Turning to Pierce's Motion to Recuse, it fails for several reasons. First, Pierce misapplies § 3-1-803, MCA, because Chief Justice McGrath did not preside over his trial court proceeding as a district court judge. Second, motions and motion practice are not tolerated in original proceedings. M. R. App. P. 14(5). And, lastly, his motion is moot because the Chief Justice is not on this panel. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Pierce's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Pierce's Motion to Recuse Chief Justice Mike McGrath from Ruling on the Accompanying Habeas Corpus is DENIED as moot.

         The Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this Order to counsel of record and to Robert S. Pierce personally.



[1] In this Memorandum Opinion, we included more procedural history. The Respondents below removed Pierce's civil action to federal court which later dismissed Pierce's ยง 1983 claims because they were barred. The federal court remanded the matter to the ...

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