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Kentucky Department of Corrections, Office of Commissioner v. Mitchem

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

September 20, 2019

KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER APPELLANT
v.
DONELL L. MITCHEM APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE THOMAS D. WINGATE, JUDGE ACTION NO. 17-CI-01297

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Allison Brown, Frankfort, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Miranda J. Hellman Assistant Public Advocate Frankfort, Kentucky

          BEFORE: LAMBERT, MAZE, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, JUDGE:

         The Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) appeals from an opinion and order of the Franklin Circuit Court granting Donell L. Mitchem summary judgment and holding that Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 532.400(1)(b)[1] is unconstitutional. We affirm.

         In November 2016, Mitchem entered a guilty plea to escape in the second degree (KRS 520.030) and was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. With application of good time and program credits, Mitchem served out his sentence on February 8, 2017. See 501 Kentucky Administrative Regulation (KAR) 6:080. At the time of his release, Mitchem learned that during his incarceration he had been classified as "close" and was thus subject to a full year of post-incarceration supervision (PIS). In May 2017, Mitchem was returned to custody for failure to maintain contact with his PIS supervisor. His new serve-out date was May 5, 2018.

         On December 15, 2017, Mitchem filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief in the Franklin Circuit Court. He challenged the constitutionality of KRS 532.400(1)(b) and sought his immediate release from the Grant County Detention Center, where he was being held. Mitchem also filed a motion for summary judgment on his claims. The circuit court held three hearings (on February 21, March 21, and March 30, 2018). The circuit court granted Mitchem's motion for summary judgment, but denied injunctive relief, on March 29, 2018. It then, after the third hearing, granted Mitchem's release on April 4 of that year. The Department of Corrections appeals.[2]

         We begin by reciting our standard of review:

A motion for summary judgment should be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, stipulations, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." CR 56.03. We explained in Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Serv. Ctr., Inc.:
While it has been recognized that summary judgment is designed to expedite the disposition of cases and avoid unnecessary trials when no genuine issues of material fact are raised, . . . this Court has also repeatedly admonished that the rule is to be cautiously applied. The record must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment and all doubts are to be resolved in his favor. Even though a trial court may believe the party opposing the motion may not succeed at trial, it should not render a summary judgment if there is any issue of material fact. The trial judge must examine the evidence, not to decide any issue of fact, but to discover if a real issue exists. It clearly is not the purpose of the summary judgment rule, as we have often declared, to cut litigants off from their right of trial if they have issues to try.
807 S.W.2d 476, 480 (Ky. 1991) (internal citations omitted).
"Because summary judgments involve no fact finding, this Court will review the circuit court's decision de novo." 3D Enterprises Contracting Corp. v. Louisville & Jefferson Cnty. Metro. Sewer Dist., 174 S.W.3d 440, 445 (Ky. 2005). On appeal, "[t]he standard of review . . . of a summary judgment is whether the circuit judge correctly found that there were no issues as to any material fact and that the moving party was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant shows that the adverse party could not ...

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