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Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit.


NUMBER 2016 CA 0653

Decided: January 05, 2017

BEFORE: WELCH, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ. Harold Joe Black, Plain Dealing, Louisiana Pro Se - Appellant Plaintiff-Harold Joe Black Jonathan Vining, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorney for Appellee Defendant - Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

Plaintiff/appellant, Harold Joe Black, a former inmate, appeals a district court judgment, which dismissed without prejudice his writ of habeas corpus. We affirm the district court's judgment in compliance with Uniform Rules—Courts of Appeal, Rule 2-16.2(A)(2), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), and (10).

In August of 2008, Black was sentenced to 15 years hard labor without the benefit of parole, after being convicted of Distribution of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, and adjudicated a second felony offender based upon a previous felony conviction. In February of 2012, Black filed an unsuccessful request for administrative remedy, which requested proof of compliance with La. C.Cr.P. art. 892 and La. R.S. 15:566 when committing him to custody.

In August 2012, Black filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) in the 19th Judicial District Court seeking his immediate release. Black alleged that under La. C.Cr.P. art. 892 and La. R.S. 15:566, he had been wrongfully held in custody based on the insufficiency of the documents committing him to custody for both his first and second felony incarcerations. Black later argued at hearings in the matter that his confinement was unlawful because the underlying conviction for the second felony was deficient on the basis that the bill of information charged him only with distribution under La. R.S. 40:967(A)(1), but not the accompanying offense of which he was convicted - as a principal under La. R.S. 14:24. At the time of filing, Black was still an inmate at the Winn Correction Facility in Winnfield, Louisiana; however, in May of 2013 he was released after serving his entire sentence.

In a report, issued on January 23, 2015, the commissioner assigned to the matter reviewed the merits of the habeas corpus application and offered two recommendations to the district court. First, the commissioner found that the evidence submitted by the DPSC demonstrated that Black was subject to a presumably valid verdict and sentence. Also, the commissioner found that any alleged failure to comply with La. C.Cr.P. art. 892 was not a valid basis for a habeas complaint. See La. C.Cr.P. art. 892(D). On the above grounds, the commissioner recommended that the habeas complaint lacked merit, and, as such, should be dismissed with prejudice. Second, the commissioner alternatively recommended dismissal of the matter without prejudice on the grounds that the complaint was moot based on the petitioner's release from custody during the pendency of the action. In a judgment rendered on March 3, 2015, the district court adopted the second recommendation of the commissioner and dismissed Black's suit without prejudice, presumably because he found the matter moot. Black filed a notice of intent to seek supervisory writs. Black's writ was granted by this court for the limited purpose of remanding this matter to the district court with instructions to grant Black an appeal, which was accomplished on September 14, 2015. Black v. Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, 2015-1025 (La. App. 1st Cir. 9/21/15) (unpublished writ action).

In this appeal, Black contends that the district court erred in ruling that his release renders the matter moot. However, it is well-settled that “courts will not decide abstract, hypothetical or moot controversies, or render advisory opinions with respect to such controversies.” State v. Malone, 2008-2253, (La. 12/1/09), 25 So.3d 113, 116 (quoting Cat's Meow, Inc. v. City of New Orleans, 98-0601 (La. 10/20/98), 720 So.2d 1186, 1193; Perschall v. State, 96-0322 (La. 7/1/97), 697 So.2d 240, 251. “A case is ‘moot’ when a rendered judgment or decree can serve no useful purpose and give no practical relief or effect.” Cat's Meow, 720 So.2d at 1193. If the case is moot, there is no subject matter on which the judgment of the court can operate. Cat's Meow, 720 So.2d at 1193; Perschall, 697 So.2d at 253. After a thorough review of the record of these proceedings, we find no error in the judgment of the district court. Therefore, the March 3, 2015 judgment of the district court is affirmed.

All costs of this appeal are assessed to the plaintiff/appellant, Harold Joe Black.