Rentschler v. Nixon, No. SC 90285

CourtMissouri Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCaleb M. Lewis, Attorney General Office, Jefferson City, for Appellant in SC 90285
Citation311 S.W.3d 783
PartiesCharles W. RENTSCHLER, et al., Appellants, v. Jeremiah NIXON, et al., Respondents. James Laney, Appellant, v. Jeremiah Nixon, et al., Respondents.
Decision Date11 May 2010
Docket NumberNo. SC 90285,SC 90418.

311 S.W.3d 783

Charles W. RENTSCHLER, et al., Appellants,
v.
Jeremiah NIXON, et al.,1 Respondents.

James Laney, Appellant,
v.
Jeremiah Nixon, et al., Respondents.

Nos. SC 90285, SC 90418.

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.

April 6, 2010.

As Modified on Denial of Rehearing May 11, 2010.


311 S.W.3d 784

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

311 S.W.3d 785

Charles W. Rentschler, pro se.

Caleb M. Lewis, Attorney General Office, Jefferson City, for Appellant in SC 90285.

James Laney, pro se.

Andrew W. Hassell, Attorney General Office, Jefferson City, for Appellant in SC 90418.

WILLIAM RAY PRICE, JR., Chief Justice.

I. Introduction

Appellants in both cases are groups of inmates claiming that a legislative amendment removing conditional release eligibility for inmates convicted of certain violent felonies violated the Missouri and federal constitutions. The inmates claim that the law violates the ex post facto clause, substantive due process and the Missouri prohibition of laws with retrospective operation and that the bills were passed with constitutionally deficient procedure. Both trial court decisions upheld the statute as constitutional and dismissed the appellants' claims. Both judgments are affirmed.

II. Facts

The facts are not in dispute. A jury convicted Charles Rentschler, Kenneth G. Charron and Roger Nolan (collectively "Rentschler") various violent felonies and each was sentenced to life in prison. James Laney ("Laney") was convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced as a persistent offender to 30 years without the possibility of probation or parole.

When all were sentenced, the conditional release statute, section 558.011, RSMo 1978, was silent regarding whether violent felons were eligible for conditional release. In 1990, well after all appellants were convicted, the legislature amended section 558.011 making conditional release inapplicable to those convicted of "dangerous felonies as defined in section 556.061." Sec. 558.011, RSMo Supp. 1990. Section 556.061 includes the felonies applicable to Rentschler's group and "forcible rape," which applies to Laney. Section 556.061.8, RSMo Supp. 2008. Both Laney and Rentschler argue that this amendment violates various constitutional provisions.

First, both argue that the amendment violates substantive due process under the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution by "adding additional time of incarceration." Second, Rentschler argues that the amendment changed the subject matter of section 558.011 and also contains multiple subjects in violation of article III, sections 21 and 23 of the Missouri Constitution.

311 S.W.3d 786
Third, Laney argues that the amendment is an ex post facto law violating the federal and Missouri constitutions. Fourth, and finally, both argue that the amendment violates the prohibition on laws retrospective in operation under article I, section 13 of the Missouri Constitution

The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of the state in both cases, finding section 558.011 valid under the United States and Missouri constitutions. Both judgments are affirmed.

III. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

This Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over challenges to the validity of a state statute. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 3. Constitutional challenges to a statute are reviewed de novo. Franklin County ex rel. Parks v. Franklin County Comm'n, 269 S.W.3d 26, 29 (Mo. banc 2008). A statute is presumed valid and will not be held unconstitutional unless it clearly contravenes a constitutional provision. Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 833, 841 (Mo. banc 2006). The person challenging the validity of the statute has the burden of proving the act clearly and undoubtedly violates the constitutional limitations. Trout v. State, 231 S.W.3d 140, 144 (Mo. banc 2007).

B. Substantive Due Process

First, Laney and Rentschler argue that the retroactive application of the conditional release modification violates substantive due process.

"There is no constitutional or inherent right to early release from prison." State ex rel. Cavallaro v. Groose, 908 S.W.2d 133, 134 (Mo.1995) citing Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal and Correctional Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7, 99 S.Ct. 2100, 60 L.Ed.2d 668 (1979). Conditional release is unknown to the common law; it derives solely from the statutory authority that created it. "Where the right exists only by state law, it is not protected by substantive due process and `may constitutionally be rescinded so long as the elements of procedural due process are observed.'" State ex rel. Cavallaro v. Groose, 908 S.W.2d 133, 135, 136 (Mo. banc 1995) citing McKinney v. Pate, 20 F.3d 1550, 1556 (11th Cir. banc 1994) (emphasis added). Point denied.

C. Original Subject and Multiple Subjects

Second, Rentschler argues that House Bill 974, the 1990 bill that amended section 558.011, changed the "original purpose" of that section because it amended a "sentencing" statute, changing it to a "procedural" statute in violation of article III, section 21 of the Missouri Constitution (Point III). He also alleges that House Bill 974 contained multiple subjects violating of article III, section 23 because it deals with both sentencing and conditional release (Point IV).

"The use of these procedural limitations secs. 21 through 23 to attack the constitutionality of statutes is not favored." Stroh Brewery Co. v. State, 954 S.W.2d 323, 326 (Mo. banc 1997). "This Court will resolve doubts in favor of the procedural and substantive validity of an act of the legislature." Hammerschmidt v. Boone County, 877 S.W.2d 98, 102 (Mo. banc 1994).

As Judge Holstein observed in Hammerschmidt's concurrence, there is necessarily a time limitation for these constitutional challenges to "strike a balance between the citizen's right to insist that the legislature comply with constitutional procedural safeguards . . . and the strong

311 S.W.3d 787
presumption of regularity of legislative proceedings that promotes stability and finality of legislative enactments." Hammerschmidt, 877 S.W.2d at 105 (Holstein, J. concurring).2

A claim must be "raised not later than the adjournment of the next...

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49 practice notes
  • Sanders v. Ahmed, No. SC 91492.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 2012
    ...remaining motions.III. Sanders's Constitutional Claims Constitutional challenges to a statute are reviewed de novo. Rentschler v. Nixon, 311 S.W.3d 783, 786 (Mo. banc 2010). A statute is presumed to be constitutional and will not be held unconstitutional unless it clearly and undoubtedly co......
  • Watts v. Lester E. Cox Med. Ctrs., No. SC 91867.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • September 25, 2012
    ...V, section 3. Watts' constitutional challenge to the validity of section 538.210 is subject to de novo review. Rentschler v. Nixon, 311 S.W.3d 783, 786 (Mo. banc 2010). “A statute is presumed valid and will not be held unconstitutional unless it clearly contravenes a constitutional provisio......
  • Klotz v. ST. ANTHONY'S MEDICAL CENTER, No. SC90107.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 25, 2010
    ...As compelling as the state's interest in quality health care is, I cannot see the necessity of providing that care on the backs of the 311 S.W.3d 783 most disadvantaged victims of medical --------Notes: 1 SAMC has satisfied its judgment and is no longer a party to this appeal. 2 Section 538......
  • Corneilus v. Mo. Dep't of Corr. Prison Official, 4:22-CV-595 ACL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • August 31, 2022
    ...discretion in releasing an offender on parole.” Cooper v. Holden, 189 S.W.3d 614, 618 (Mo.Ct.App. 2006); see also Rentschler v. Nixon, 311 S.W.3d 783, 788 (Mo. banc. 2010) (stating that the Missouri board of probation and parole has always “retained plenary discretion as to whether to issue......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
49 cases
  • Sanders v. Ahmed, No. SC 91492.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 2012
    ...remaining motions.III. Sanders's Constitutional Claims Constitutional challenges to a statute are reviewed de novo. Rentschler v. Nixon, 311 S.W.3d 783, 786 (Mo. banc 2010). A statute is presumed to be constitutional and will not be held unconstitutional unless it clearly and undoubtedly co......
  • Watts v. Lester E. Cox Med. Ctrs., No. SC 91867.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • September 25, 2012
    ...V, section 3. Watts' constitutional challenge to the validity of section 538.210 is subject to de novo review. Rentschler v. Nixon, 311 S.W.3d 783, 786 (Mo. banc 2010). “A statute is presumed valid and will not be held unconstitutional unless it clearly contravenes a constitutional provisio......
  • Klotz v. ST. ANTHONY'S MEDICAL CENTER, No. SC90107.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 25, 2010
    ...As compelling as the state's interest in quality health care is, I cannot see the necessity of providing that care on the backs of the 311 S.W.3d 783 most disadvantaged victims of medical --------Notes: 1 SAMC has satisfied its judgment and is no longer a party to this appeal. 2 Section 538......
  • Corneilus v. Mo. Dep't of Corr. Prison Official, 4:22-CV-595 ACL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • August 31, 2022
    ...discretion in releasing an offender on parole.” Cooper v. Holden, 189 S.W.3d 614, 618 (Mo.Ct.App. 2006); see also Rentschler v. Nixon, 311 S.W.3d 783, 788 (Mo. banc. 2010) (stating that the Missouri board of probation and parole has always “retained plenary discretion as to whether to issue......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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