Legislature(1995 - 1996)
1995-02-27 House JournalFull Journal pdf
1995-02-27 House Journal Page 0488 HB 201 HOUSE BILL NO. 201 by the House Rules Committee by request of the Governor, entitled: "An Act relating to prisoner litigation, post-conviction relief, sentence appeals, amending Alaska Administrative Rule 10, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure 204, 208, 209, 215, 521, 603, and 604, and Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure 11, 33, 35, and 35.1; and providing for an effective date." was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs, Judiciary and Finance Committees. The following fiscal notes apply: Zero fiscal notes (2), Dept. of Administration, 2/27/95 Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Corrections, 2/27/95 Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Law, 2/27/95 Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Public Safety, 2/27/95 The Governor's transmittal letter, dated February 27, 1995, appears below: "Dear Speaker Phillips: Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am transmitting a bill that addresses many of the problems arising from 1995-02-27 House Journal Page 0489 HB 201 prisoner litigation, sentence appeals, and frivolous or extremely tardy post-conviction relief motions. This bill is intended to ensure that offenders focus their attention on their rehabilitation and reformation, rather than on endless "recreational" litigation. The bill also is intended to promote the finality of convictions, preserve the sanctity of jury verdicts, minimize the litigation of stale claims, and prevent the unjustified dismissal of a criminal case when reprosecution is not possible. Frivolous litigation filed by prisoners misallocates resources of the judiciary, the Department of Law, the Public Defender's Office, the Office of Public Advocacy, the Department of Corrections, and the public. Sections 1-5, 13-15, 17, 20-21, and 31 relate to prisoner litigation. These sections are designed to reduce the number of frivolous suits filed by prisoners that involve the state, its employees, and former employees. This prisoner litigation is preventing the state and the court from giving adequate attention to legitimate lawsuits. Sections 1, 15, and 17 of the bill require prisoners to pay filing fees for civil proceedings according to their ability to pay. Section 1 authorizes the court to summarily dismiss suits or appeals filed by prisoners who pay less than full filing fees when those suits or appeals are frivolous or malicious or fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Sections 2-5 amend the exemptions statutes so that the state can collect judgments entered against prisoner litigants. Section 13 authorizes prisoners to appeal administrative disciplinary decisions when their fundamental constitutional rights were violated. Section 20 authorizes courts to stay the imposition of sanctions arising from a disciplinary decision only if the court finds, among other factors, that the prisoner faces irreparable harm if the stay is not granted and the prisoner is likely to succeed on the merits of the appeal. Sections 7, 8, 11, 12, 18, 22, 27, and 28 relate to sentence appeals. In fiscal year 1994, the court of appeals published opinions from 13 sentence appeals. Twelve of those sentences were upheld by the court of appeals. The court summarily ruled on another 93 sentence appeals in this same time period. Only eight of those were reversed. Thus, over 90 percent of all sentence appeals (97 of 106) have resulted in the 1995-02-27 House Journal Page 0490 HB 201 sentence being affirmed by the court of appeals. This bill limits appeals from the 90 percent of cases in which the lower court's sentences are routinely upheld. Sections 18 and 22 prevent defendants from appealing sentences or portions of sentences that they agreed to as part of a plea agreement with the state. For example, a defendant who agrees to a sentence of up to three years should not be heard to complain if the court imposes a sentence of that length or less. Similarly, secs. 27 and 28 prevent a court from modifying or reducing a sentence that was imposed in accordance with a sentencing agreement. Sections 7 and 11 restrict defendants convicted of felonies from appealing as excessive any sentence of two years or less, while secs. 8 and 12 restrict defendants convicted of misdemeanors from appealing as excessive a sentence of 120 days or less. Most of the remaining sections of this bill set limits on the ability of prisoners to challenge their convictions years after they have already pursued normal appellate procedures and lost. After a prisoner loses on direct appeal, current law allows the prisoner to pursue a second or third round of challenges in state court. These challenges are referred to as "post-conviction relief" proceedings. If the prisoner loses these rounds, the prisoner can start yet another round of challenges in federal court. This bill seeks to reduce the number of third and subsequent rounds of challenges currently allowed under state law. This would limit most prisoners to one direct appeal and one set of post-conviction relief proceedings in the state court system and one set of post- conviction relief proceedings in the federal system. Section 9 creates a new chapter in the code of criminal procedure to govern post-conviction relief procedures for persons convicted of criminal offenses. This chapter delineates the scope of permissible post-conviction relief claims by prohibiting claims based on the erroneous admission of evidence, illegal searches and seizures, and the excessiveness of a sentence. In addition, sec. 9 imposes a maximum time limit from the entry of a conviction for filing an application for post-conviction relief to challenge a judgment of conviction. This section also imposes a one- year limit from the entry of an administrative decision by the Parole Board or Department of Corrections for filing an application for post- conviction relief to challenge a decision involving parole or time accounting. Section 26 imposes a 180-day limit for the filing of a 1995-02-27 House Journal Page 0491 HB 201 motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, while sec. 19 limits the authority of the appellate court to accept late appeals and petitions for hearing in cases involving criminal offenders. Current law allows a defendant to try to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest after entering the plea or even after being sentenced if the defendant so chooses. Section 25 requires a defendant who wants to withdraw a plea after having been sentenced to file an application for post-conviction relief. Section 26 eliminates the ability of trial judges to grant a new trial on the ground that the jury's verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence. Sections 6 and 16 prohibit appellate courts from releasing convicted defendants on bail until all of the defendant's convictions are vacated. Section 10 limits indigent offenders' right to an appointed attorney to timely applications for post-conviction relief; appointed counsel will no longer be available for appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief. The bill includes changes to the Alaska Administrative Rules of Court, the Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Rules of Criminal Procedure, which are necessary to make the rules conform to the proposed statutory changes. Section 32 also amends Criminal Rule 35.1(g) to allow the court in post-conviction relief proceedings to authorize the applicant to participate telephonically or by video conferencing, as an alternative to transporting the applicant to court for the hearing. Finally, secs. 22 and 23 require a court to impose the sentence contemplated by a plea agreement or allow either party to withdraw from the agreement; this is a change from existing law, which allows the court to impose the sentence contemplated in the agreement or impose a sentence more favorable to the defendant. There is no reason that the state should be prohibited from withdrawing from an agreement that the court believes is inappropriate, as defendants are permitted to do. I urge your favorable action on this bill. Sincerely, /s/ Tony Knowles Governor"