Payne v. Kerns

Decision Date12 May 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 116,978
Citation467 P.3d 659
Parties James C. PAYNE, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. Joel KERNS and Missy Eldridge, Defendants/Appellees.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

¶1 On February 8, 2010, the appellant, James C. Payne (Payne), pled nolo contendere to the crime of stalking in Case No. CF-2010-27, District Court of Pittsburg County, State of Oklahoma. He received a five-year deferment with special rules and conditions of probation. He was required to have no contact with the stalking victim. In addition, Payne pled guilty to violating a protective order in many other cases filed in Pittsburg County related to the same victim and was sentenced to six months in the county jail. The sentences were to run concurrently. He received extra credits and was released from custody on May 5, 2010. A month later, on June 10, 2010, the district attorney filed a motion to accelerate the deferred judgment for probation violations. It alleged Payne had been contacting and harassing the victim. The district court issued a felony warrant and Payne was arrested and booked into jail by the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office on June 11, 2010. Payne did not post bail and remained in the county jail.

¶2 On August 23, 2010, the district court executed a minute order finding Payne guilty of violating the terms of his deferred sentence. He was sentenced to a term of five years imprisonment with four years suspended and one year to serve in the Department of Corrections (DOC). Payne also received credit for the time he had been serving in the county jail since his June 11, 2010 arrest. Therefore, the one year sentence was to expire on June 11, 2011. A formal Judgment and Sentence was filed on May 13, 2011 and dated October 15, 2010. This occurred less than a month of when Payne's sentence was set to expire. The record reflects the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office received the Judgment and Sentence on May 17, 2011. The Judgment and Sentence ordered Payne into DOC custody and directed the Sheriff's office to transfer Payne to DOC. It provided:

In the event the above sentence is for incarceration in the Department of Corrections, the Sheriff of Pittsburg County, Oklahoma is ordered and directed to deliver the Defendant to the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center at Lexington, Oklahoma, and leave therewith a copy of this Judgment and Sentence to serve as warrant authority of the Sheriff for the transportation and the imprisonment of the Defendant as herein before provided. The sheriff to make due return to the clerk of this Court, with his proceedings endorsed thereon.

The Sheriff's Office of Pittsburg County did not transfer Payne to the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center (LARC) until September 6, 2011, almost three months past the end of his sentence. Payne was released that same day without serving any of his time in DOC custody.

¶3 Payne filed a Notice of Governmental Tort Claims on February 27, 2012 against the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Pittsburg County Jail, Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department, Pittsburg County Commissioners Chairman Gene Rogers, Commissioner Kevin Smith, and Commissioner Ronnie Young, Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns, and Pittsburg County Jail Administrator Missy [sic] Eldridge.1 The claim was denied on March 30, 2012. On September 6, 2012, he filed a Petition in the District Court of Pittsburg County (Case No. CJ-2012-233) against the same Defendants. He alleged various violations of his constitutional rights under the United States Constitution, federal statute ( 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ) and tort causes of action related to his extended incarceration past his sentence expiration. Less than a month later, October 2, 2012, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma (Case No. 12-CV-407) based upon federal question jurisdiction. After some litigation the parties attempted to settle the action and the federal case was dismissed without prejudice by an Administrative Closing Order filed July 15, 2013.

¶4 On April 11, 2014, Payne re-filed his Petition against the same Defendants in the District Court of Pittsburg County (Case No. CJ-2014-73). The Petition was identical to the one filed in CJ-2012-233, with the addition of alleged violations of his rights under the Oklahoma Constitution. Payne alleged the Defendant's actions violated his rights under the following sections of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution:

§ 2. All persons have the inherent right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry.
§ 7. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
§ 9. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted.
§ 30. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches or seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, describing as particularly as may be the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized.

Based upon these state constitutional violations and this Court's jurisprudence in Washington v. Barry, 2002 OK 45, 55 P.3d 1036 and Bosh v. Cherokee County Building Authority , 2013 OK 9, 305 P.3d 994, the Petition asserted Payne had a private right of action against the Defendants notwithstanding the Oklahoma Government Tort Claims Act (OGTCA), 51 O.S. § 151, et seq.

¶5 On January 8, 2015, the Defendants again filed a Notice and Petition for Removal in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma (Case No. 15-CV-10). The case was removed and the parties litigated the matter in federal court for almost two years. On January 14, 2015, the Defendants, State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, moved to dismiss all claims against those defendants. The court granted their motion on September 17, 2015. Also, on January 14, 2015, the Defendants Pittsburg County Jail, Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Joel Kerns, Pittsburg County Commissioners Gene Rogers and Kevin Smith, and Pittsburg County Jail Administrator "Missi" Eldridge moved to enforce the settlement agreement from 2013 or in the alternative to dismiss the action against those defendants. The court denied their motion on September 17, 2015.2 On November 25, 2015, the Defendants, Pittsburg County Jail, Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office, County Commissioner Gene Rogers and County Commissioner Kevin Smith, filed a Motion to Dismiss. A few days later, December 10, 2015, Payne filed a Partial Dismissal of Defendants, County Commissioners Gene Rogers, Kevin Smith and Ronnie Young, the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department and the Pittsburg County Jail. On June 8, 2016, by Minute Order, the court granted the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Payne's Partial Motion to Dismiss and stated "[t]he only defendants remaining are Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns and Pittsburg County Jail Administrator Missy Eldridge."

¶6 On December 7, 2016, Payne filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal and Remand wherein he requested to dismiss all his federal claims and have the matter remanded to the state district court to determine his Oklahoma state law claims. On December 13, 2016, the court entered an Order. The Order notes Payne's federal claims are dismissed by agreement of the parties but it found no compelling reason to retain jurisdiction over Payne's "pendent state Bosh claim." The court held "any issues the parties may have under Bosh should be decided by the Pittsburg County, Oklahoma District Court including any defenses regarding individual capacity. This action is therefore remanded to the Pittsburg County, Oklahoma District Court." On February 23, 2017, the District Court of Pittsburg County (Case No. CJ-2014-73) entered a status and scheduling conference journal entry noting the case was on remand from the federal district court "on issues of state law only."

¶7 On April 7, 2017, the remaining Defendants, "Sheriff Joel Kerns" (Kerns) and "Jail Administrator Missi Eldridge" (Eldridge) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in the District Court of Pittsburg County. They argued 1) the remaining Defendants were not proper parties under a Bosh claim, 2) Payne had no private right of action against the Defendants under the Oklahoma Constitution, 3) the constitutional claims are time barred, 4) Payne abandoned his state tort law claims, 5) the Defendants were not liable for the state tort law claims, and 6) the state law claims should be dismissed based upon promissory estoppel. On August 8, 2017, the district court entered a Minute Order granting the Defendants' motion. The Minute Order states:

After hearing argument of counsel, review of the parties' motions, briefs, attached exhibits, and review of the relevant provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution, the OGTCA, applicable statute and case law, including, but not limited to, Bosh v. Cherokee Bldg. Authority, 2013 OK 9 , GJA v. OK DHS 2015 OK CIV APP 32 , and Deal v. Brooks 2016 OK CIV APP 81 ; the Court finds that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, in its entirety, should be and is hereby GRANTED. This Court is not comfortable extending the analysis and holding in Bosh to claims asserted in this action, and therefore the Court finds that there is no substantial controversy as to any material fact.

The Defendants were ordered to prepare a journal entry. On December 5, 2017, the Defendants filed a Motion to Settle Journal Entry with an attached proposed journal entry.

The Defendants asserted in their motion "[t]he Minute Order reflects the general rulings of the Court but does not set forth sufficient factual and legal conclusions necessary for any appeal." The proposed journal entry included findings of fact and conclusions of law. Its conclusions...

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