Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

No Filing Fee Lien Allowed in Florida Mandamus Cases

In two rulings, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal has held a circuit court departed from the essential elements of law when it placed a lien on a prisoner’s trust account to satisfy the filing fee for a mandamus petition.

Florida prisoner James P. Anderson filed a mandamus petition challenging the Department of Corrections’ recalculation of his maximum sentence expiration following revocation of his release on conditional supervision. The First District held the Leon County Circuit Court’s denial of the petition on its merits was proper.

However, the appellate court found that because Anderson’s challenge was effectively one related to the length of his sentence, it was a collateral criminal proceeding that was exempt from Florida’s Prisoner Indigency Statute. Thus, the case was remanded to remove the lien placed upon Anderson’s prison trust account and to refund any payments that had been taken to satisfy the lien. See: Anderson v. McDonough, 958 So.2d 1110 (Fla.App. 1 Dist., 2007).

In a separate case, the First District Court of Appeal found no distinction between an action challenging the loss of gain-time for disciplinary proceedings and gain-time forfeited for other reasons under Florida’s Prison Indigency Statute. Prisoner Dennis W. Turner had filed a petition for writ of mandamus challenging gain-time forfeiture after his probation was revoked.

As in Anderson, the First District found that denial of the petition for mandamus was proper. However, the Court held Turner was entitled to certiorari review on his challenge to a lien imposed to cover the filing fee for the mandamus action. The Circuit Court had ruled the issue moot because the lien had been paid in full, and Turner’s reliance on Schmidt v. Crusoe, 878 So.2d 361 (Fla. 2004) misplaced since he lost gain-time due to a probation revocation rather than through disciplinary action.

The First District held that Schmidt does not authorize a lien when the action challenges the length of a prisoner’s sentence. Moreover, until the funds are reimbursed, the matter could not be considered moot. The Circuit Court was ordered to remove the lien and reimburse all funds that had been withdrawn to satisfy same. See: Turner v. McDonough, 949 So.2d 1106 (Fla.App. 1 Dist., 2007).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Turner v. McDonough

Turner v. McDonough, No. 1D06-3090 (Fla.App. 02/14/2007)


[2] CASE No. 1D06-3090


[4] February 14, 2007


[6] Dennis W. Turner, pro se, Petitioner.

[7] Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Anthony Miller, Acting General Counsel, and Chris Korn, Assistant General Counsel, Tallahassee, for Respondent.

[8] Per curiam.

[9] Petition for Writ of Certiorari - Original Jurisdiction.

[10] Dennis W. Turner seeks review of the circuit court's denial of his petition for writ of mandamus and of the denial of his motion to vacate the lien placed on his inmate trust account. The mandamus petition challenged respondent's gain-time forfeiture after Mr. Turner's probation was revoked. We deny his petition for writ of certiorari, insofar as it challenges the denial of the petition for writ of mandamus filed in circuit court. See Eldridge v. Moore, 760 So. 2d 888, 890-91 (Fla. 2000); Singletary v. Jones, 681 So. 2d 836, 837 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996).

[11] As the State concedes, however, the trial court erred in denying the motion to vacate the lien placed on his inmate trust account insofar as the motion seeks reimbursement. See Schmidt v. Crusoe, 878 So. 2d 361, 367 (Fla. 2003). The Florida Supreme Court explained that the purpose of the enactment of section 57.085, Florida Statutes, was "to discourage the filing of frivolous civil lawsuits, but not to prevent the filing of claims contesting the computation of criminal sentences." Schmidt, 878 So. 2d at 366. The court below refused to vacate the lien on two grounds: the court found that the issue was moot because the lien had been paid in full; and the court found that reliance on Schmidt was misplaced because the mandamus petition involved gain-time lost, not as a result of a disciplinary proceeding, but as a result of revocation of Mr. Turner's probation. Schmidt does not distinguish, however, between gain-time lost as a result of a disciplinary proceeding and gain-time forfeited for other reasons.

[12] The court in Schmidt made it clear that what makes the proceeding a collateral challenge in which no lien is authorized is the effect the challenged action has on the petitioner's sentence.

[13] It is clear that the Supreme Court has refused to be bound by the variations in terminology used in the various challenges to the computation of an inmate's sentence. Instead, it has looked to the effect the challenged action had on the amount of time an inmate has to actually spend in prison. . . . [T]hus, we conclude that a gain time challenge is analogous to a collateral challenge to a sentence in a criminal proceeding because the end result is the same-the inmate's time in prison is directly affected.

[14] Id. at 367 (emphasis supplied). Gain-time forfeiture lengthens the time in prison regardless of the reason for the forfeiture. Thus, the rule in Schmidt applies when gain-time is forfeited, regardless of the reason for the forfeiture, and the court erred in refusing to cancel the lien and order reimbursement.

[15] If a lien is erroneously placed on an inmate's account, the inmate is entitled to removal of the lien and reimbursement of the funds that were withdrawn from the account to satisfy the lien. See, e.g., Marquez v. McDonough, 32 Fla. L. Weekly D192, D192 (Fla. 1st DCA Jan. 5, 2007). Until and unless the funds are reimbursed, the matter is not moot. Accordingly, the petition for writ of certiorari is granted "insofar as it seeks relief from the unauthorized lien." Id. We vacate the order placing a lien on Mr. Turner's inmate account, and we "remand for entry of an order directing the reimbursement of those funds withdrawn from his account pursuant to the lien." Id.

[16] The petition for writ of certiorari is otherwise denied.