Legislature(1995 - 1996)

1995-02-27 House Journal

Full 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            
"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             
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          
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.                                     
									Tony Knowles