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Martin v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

June 13, 2019

TROY M. MARTIN APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

          ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2016-CA-001017-MR JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT NO. 15-CR-000469

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANTS: Daniel T. Goyette Public Defender of Counsel Yvette Rene' Delaguardia Assistant Public Defender

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General Jeanne Deborah Anderson Assistant Attorney General

          OPINION

          MINTON, CHIEF JUSTICE

         If the Commonwealth fails to object to a trial court's exercise of jurisdiction over a criminal defendant's motion for shock probation, it waives its ability to raise that issue on appeal. This is exactly what happened in this case. So we reverse the Court of Appeals holding and remand this case to that court to consider the issue it did not reach.

         I. BACKGROUND.

         The grand jury indicted Troy Martin on two counts of distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor and 20 counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. Martin pleaded guilty to the charges, and on October 28, 2015, the trial court sentenced Martin to six years' imprisonment. Martin was taken into custody and began serving his sentence in the county jail. On March 4, 2016, Martin was transferred to the custody of the Department of Corrections.

         On May 18, 2016, Martin filed a motion for shock probation. The trial court conducted a hearing on Martin's motion, in which Martin testified that the time he had already served in custody impressed upon him the seriousness of his crimes. He asked for shock probation, which the Commonwealth opposed. Importantly, the Commonwealth did not object to the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction over that motion.

         The trial court eventually granted Martin's motion for shock probation but delayed his release by making probation effective on February 13, 2017. The Commonwealth appealed to the Court of Appeals the trial court's order granting shock probation. And it argued, for the first time, that the trial court was without jurisdiction to entertain Martin's motion.[1] The Court of Appeals reversed, agreeing with the Commonwealth's position. Martin sought discretionary review from this Court, which we granted.

         II. ANALYSIS.

         The crux of the dispute between the parties lies in whether the trial court had jurisdiction to act on Martin's motion for shock probation. Martin argues that the Commonwealth never objected to the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction over his motion, which is one of two bases for the Commonwealth's appeal to the Court of Appeals.[2] The Commonwealth does not deny Martin's contention; rather, the Commonwealth argues that the issue of jurisdiction over a defendant's motion for shock probation is a sentencing issue that is always reviewable by an appellate court.[3]

         Martin correctly identifies that the type of jurisdiction at issue in this case is particular-case jurisdiction. It is axiomatic that a circuit court has subject-matter jurisdiction over felony cases.[4] "Once a court has acquired subject-matter and personal jurisdiction, challenges to its later rulings and judgment are questions incident to the exercise of jurisdiction rather than to the existence of jurisdiction."[5] "A court's power to affect its own judgment [constitutes] jurisdiction over a particular case. Such questions go more accurately to the propriety of the exercise of jurisdiction rather than to the existence of jurisdiction."[6]

         When the Commonwealth challenged in the Court of Appeals the trial court's grant of shock probation on the basis that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to do so, the Commonwealth was challenging the trial court's jurisdiction over the case. But the Commonwealth failed to present that challenge to the trial court. "[P]articular-case jurisdiction is subject to waiver."[7] Because the Commonwealth "did not raise th[is] jurisdictional issue until appeal[, the Commonwealth] waived any issue relating to particular-case jurisdiction."[8]

         The Commonwealth tries to save its appeal by arguing that whether the trial court could review Martin's motion for shock probation constitutes a sentencing issue that is always reviewable on appeal.[9] With its argument, the Commonwealth has turned our sentencing-issue jurisprudence on its head. Former Justice Venters explained that our sentencing-issue jurisprudence stems from the concept that an "appellate court [has] inherent jurisdiction to correct an illegal sentence."[10] Our review of unpreserved "sentencing issues" is based on protection of the defendant from being subjected to an illegal sentence, "since all defendants have the right to be sentenced after due consideration of all applicable law, "[11] not as protection for the Commonwealth against its failure to ...


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