Skip navigation

Bizarre Ruling Deprives Arkansas Prisoner of Judicial Review of Disciplinary Action

Bizarre Ruling Deprives Arkansas Prisoner of Judicial Review of Disciplinary Action

On May 15, 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied a state prisoner the right to seek judicial review of a disciplinary action because he did not pay the filing fee "on time.” The ruling was intriguing, at best, because the prisoner seemed to have precisely complied with the court's instructions.

In 2012, prisoner Morris Koontz was found guilty of numerous prison infractions, including rape, assault, and failure to obey orders. He was sanctioned with thirty days segregation and loss of 792 days good time. Koontz appealed the decision all the way to the director of corrections, but all appeals were denied. Meanwhile, Koontz was administratively classified as a "sexual predator” under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and placed in administrative segregation.

Koontz received the final word on his last appeal, according to the court, no later than October 22, 2012. Thus, under Arkansas law, Koontz had thirty days from that date to seek judicial review of the prison's action.

It appeared that Koontz did indeed file a "Petition for Judicial Review of Administrative Action” in county court on November 8, 2012. It was on this date, according to the Arkansas Supreme Court, that the county judge gave Koontz sixty days to make a partial payment of $4.00 towards the initial filing fee. The order stated that if Koontz did not pay the $4.00 within sixty days, the clerk was authorized to destroy the pleadings.

Koontz paid the partial filing fee on January 2, 2013. However, the county court then summarily dismissed Koontz's petition as "untimely," because he did not "file" it within thirty days as required by law. Apparently, although stated nowhere in the Supreme Court's ruling, a petition in not "filed"in Arkansas until the initial filing fee is paid.

However, the county court gave Koontz "sixty days" to pay the filing fee before his pleadings would be destroyed by the clerk. Although it was undisputed that Koontz's petition arrived at the court within thirty days from the date he received the final word on his administrative appeals, and that he was given sixty days by the court to pay his initial filing fee, the Arkansas Supreme Court made the following truly bizarre statement:

"The order also stated that, if the initial partial payment was not received within sixty days from the date of the order, the clerk was authorized to destroy the pleadings. The order did not, as claimed by appellant, allow him sixty days to pay his partial filing fee." See: Koontz v. Hobbs, 2014 Ark. 232 (Ark. 2014).

Related legal case

Koontz v. Hobbs