State v. Armstrong, No. 33868.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Idaho
Writing for the CourtLansing
Citation195 P.3d 731,146 Idaho 372
Decision Date15 August 2008
Docket NumberNo. 33868.
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Carter J. ARMSTRONG, Defendant-Appellant.
195 P.3d 731
146 Idaho 372
STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Carter J. ARMSTRONG, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 33868.
Court of Appeals of Idaho.
August 15, 2008.
Review Denied November 18, 2008.

Molly J. Huskey, State Appellate Public Defender; Justin M. Curtis, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Ralph R. Blount, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

LANSING, Judge.


In this appeal, appellant Carter J. Armstrong challenges his judgment of conviction and probation order as being violative of a plea agreement. We do not address the merits of his argument, however, because an issue raised by respondent State of Idaho is dispositive. The State contends that the district court was without jurisdiction in this case to allow Armstrong to withdraw an earlier guilty plea to a different offense, and therefore all subsequent orders or judgments in this case have been void for lack of jurisdiction.

195 P.3d 732

Consequently, the State contends, the earlier guilty plea and its attendant conviction and sentence must be reinstated. We are constrained to agree with the State.

I.
FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Armstrong was originally charged with lewd conduct with a minor child under sixteen, Idaho Code § 18-1508. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of felony injury to children, I.C. § 18-1501(1). One of the terms of the plea agreement was that the State would not request a psychosexual evaluation. The district court accepted this plea and on March 2, 2005, entered a judgment1 imposing a unified sentence of six years with three years determinate, suspended the sentence, and placed Armstrong on four years' probation. No appeal was taken.

Thereafter, Armstrong's probation officer required Armstrong to participate in a sex offender evaluation including, apparently, a psychosexual evaluation. Armstrong refused to do so and a report of probation violation was thereupon filed alleging that he was in violation of the terms of probation. Armstrong contested the alleged violation, contending that the requirement of a psychosexual evaluation was a violation of the plea agreement. He requested either specific performance of his plea agreement or, alternatively, that he be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. The prosecutor agreed to dismiss the alleged violation and further said that if the district court were to find a breach, the State would have no objection to a withdrawal of Armstrong's guilty plea and reinstatement of the original charge of lewd conduct.

The district court held that the State had not breached the plea agreement because the prosecutor had promised only that the State would not request a psychosexual evaluation for use in sentencing. The district court also concluded that probation authorities were entitled to require a psychosexual evaluation, but that "in fairness" Armstrong would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea if he wished to do so. Armstrong elected to withdraw his plea, and the original lewd conduct charge was reinstated.

Over two months later, another plea agreement was reached calling for Armstrong to plead guilty to an amended charge of infamous crime against nature, I.C. § 18-6605, and for a unified five-year sentence with a one-year determinate term, with the court retaining jurisdiction. The agreement provided that if Armstrong successfully completed the retained jurisdiction program, he would be placed on four years' supervised probation.

At the close of the retained jurisdiction period, the district court held a hearing at which the court expressed its intention to suspend the sentence and placed Armstrong on supervised probation for five years. Armstrong objected to the five-year term, contending that the court was bound by the second plea agreement to impose only four years of probation. The district court disagreed and, in its order suspending the sentence, placed Armstrong on probation for five years. Armstrong took this appeal, asserting as his sole claim of error that the probation term violated the binding plea agreement.

The State does not respond to this issue raised by Armstrong but, instead, argues that when the district court allowed Armstrong to withdraw his initial guilty plea in August of 2005, the court had no jurisdiction to do so and, therefore, the original guilty plea, conviction, and sentence for felony injury to children must be reinstated. Armstrong has not chosen to dispute the State's position.

II.
ANALYSIS

The State rests its jurisdictional argument on State v. Jakoski, 139 Idaho 352, 79 P.3d

195 P.3d 733

711 (2003), where the Idaho Supreme Court held that a trial court's jurisdiction to allow withdrawal of a guilty plea terminates when the judgment of conviction has become final. If no appeal from a judgment is taken, finality occurs when the time to appeal expires forty-two days after the judgment. Id. at 355, 79 P.3d at 714. Armstrong's motion to withdraw his initial guilty plea was made several weeks after the judgment rendered on that plea became final. The State therefore asserts that the court had no jurisdiction to reopen Armstrong's case by allowing withdrawal of the first guilty plea, that all of the subsequent proceedings in the district court were without jurisdiction, and that all subsequent orders are void.

As the State's position here illustrates, a determination that a court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue an order or judgment carries far-reaching consequences. In Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978), our Supreme Court noted that the general concept of "jurisdiction" is very broad and has many facets, and it then warned:

[B]ecause of the serious ramifications and consequences which could follow from a court acting without jurisdiction over the subject matter, we recognize that it is important to keep that concept clearly defined. For example, the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter is never waived (I.R.C.P.12(h)); purported judgments entered by a court without jurisdiction over the subject matter are void and as such are subject to collateral attack, and are not entitled to recognition in other states under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution (Restatement of Judgments, § 7 (1942)). In addition, judges who act without jurisdiction over the subject matter may be liable for damages in civil actions. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1871). For these reasons, it may work considerable mischief to confuse lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter with questions of venue, other aspects of jurisdiction, or defenses which may bar relief or render it improper or inappropriate for a court to proceed with a case even though it has jurisdiction over the subject matter.

Id. at 626-27, 586 P.2d at 1070-71. See also Coeur d'Alenes Lead Co. v. Kingsbury, 56 Idaho 475, 489-90, 55 P.2d 1307, 1313 (1936) (Ailshie, J., spec.concur.). A court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived by a party, United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630, 122 S.Ct. 1781, 1785, 152 L.Ed.2d 860, 866 (2002); State v. Rogers, 140 Idaho 223, 227-28, 91 P.3d 1127, 1131-32 (2004), and parties cannot consent to the court's assumption of jurisdiction through conduct or acquiescence nor be estopped from asserting its absence. Fairway Development Co. v. Bannock County, 119 Idaho 121, 125, 804 P.2d 294, 298 (1990). Accordingly, a party may assert a lack of subject matter jurisdiction for the first time on appeal, Idaho State Ins. Fund v. Turner, 130 Idaho 190, 191, 938 P.2d 1228, 1229 (1997); State v. McCarthy, 133 Idaho 119, 122, 982 P.2d 954, 957 (Ct. App.1999), and the issue may even be raised sua sponte by a trial or appellate court. See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 1569, 143 L.Ed.2d 760, 770 (1999); State v. Kavajecz, 139 Idaho 482, 483, 80 P.3d 1083, 1084 (2003); State v. Lopez, 98 Idaho 581, 585, 570 P.2d 259, 263 (1976); State v. Murray, 143 Idaho 532, 534, 148 P.3d 1278, 1280 (Ct.App.2006).

Perhaps with a view toward these serious ramifications, our Supreme Court has at times employed a narrow definition of subject matter jurisdiction. In Richardson v. Ruddy, 15 Idaho 488, 494, 98 P. 842, 844 (1908) (quoting BROWN ON JURISDICTION § 1a), the Court said:

Jurisdiction over the subject-matter is the right of the court to exercise judicial power over that class of cases, not the particular case before it, but rather the abstract power to try a case of the kind or character of the one pending; and not whether the particular case is one that presents a cause of action, or under the particular facts is triable before the court in which it is pending, because of some inherent facts which exist and may be developed during the trial.

195 P.3d 734

This narrow definition, or its equivalent, has been followed and applied in many subsequent cases. See, e.g., Bach v. Miller, 144 Idaho 142, 145, 158 P.3d 305, 308 (2007); Sierra Life Ins. Co., 99 Idaho at 628-29, 586 P.2d at 1072-73; White v. Young, 88 Idaho 188, 192-93, 397 P.2d 756, 758 (1964); Rich v. Williams, 81 Idaho 311, 327, 341 P.2d 432, 441 (1959); Boughton v. Price, 70 Idaho 243, 249, 215 P.2d 286, 289 (1950); Wayne v. Alspach, 20 Idaho 144, 149-50, 116 P. 1033, 1035 (1911). Boughton elaborated on the definition as follows:

Such jurisdiction the court acquires by the act of its creation, and possesses inherently by its constitution; and it is not dependent upon the sufficiency of the bill or complaint, the validity of the demand set forth in the complaint, or plaintiff's right to the...

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43 practice notes
  • State v. Branigh, No. 36427.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 9, 2013
    ...Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011); State v. Dicksen, 152 Idaho 70, 76, 266 P.3d 1175, 1181 (Ct.App.2011); State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 376, 195 P.3d 731, 735 (Ct.App.2008). Idaho jurisprudence addressing subject matter jurisdiction has generally dealt with challenges to a cou......
  • State v. Branigh, 36427.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • July 17, 2013
    ...Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011) ; State v. Dicksen, 152 Idaho 70, 76, 266 P.3d 1175, 1181 (Ct.App.2011) ; State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 376, 195 P.3d 731, 735 (Ct.App.2008). Idaho jurisprudence addressing subject matter jurisdiction has generally dealt with challenges to a c......
  • State v. Branigh, Docket No. 36427
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • July 17, 2013
    ...Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011); State v. Dicksen, 152 Idaho 70, 76, 266 P.3d 1175, 1181 (Ct. App. 2011); State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 376, 195 P.3d 731, 735 (Ct. App. 2008). Idaho jurisprudence addressing subject matter jurisdiction has generally dealt with challenges to a......
  • Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v. John Doe, 37746.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • November 4, 2010
    ...Thus, we turn to an examination of whether a loss of jurisdiction is contemplated by the prescriptions in the CPA.In State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 195 P.3d 731 (Ct.App.2008), this Court engaged in an extensive analysis of subject matter jurisdiction, including identifying the type of e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
43 cases
  • State v. Branigh, No. 36427.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 9, 2013
    ...Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011); State v. Dicksen, 152 Idaho 70, 76, 266 P.3d 1175, 1181 (Ct.App.2011); State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 376, 195 P.3d 731, 735 (Ct.App.2008). Idaho jurisprudence addressing subject matter jurisdiction has generally dealt with challenges to a cou......
  • State v. Branigh, 36427.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • July 17, 2013
    ...Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011) ; State v. Dicksen, 152 Idaho 70, 76, 266 P.3d 1175, 1181 (Ct.App.2011) ; State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 376, 195 P.3d 731, 735 (Ct.App.2008). Idaho jurisprudence addressing subject matter jurisdiction has generally dealt with challenges to a c......
  • State v. Branigh, Docket No. 36427
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • July 17, 2013
    ...Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011); State v. Dicksen, 152 Idaho 70, 76, 266 P.3d 1175, 1181 (Ct. App. 2011); State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 376, 195 P.3d 731, 735 (Ct. App. 2008). Idaho jurisprudence addressing subject matter jurisdiction has generally dealt with challenges to a......
  • Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v. John Doe, 37746.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • November 4, 2010
    ...Thus, we turn to an examination of whether a loss of jurisdiction is contemplated by the prescriptions in the CPA.In State v. Armstrong, 146 Idaho 372, 195 P.3d 731 (Ct.App.2008), this Court engaged in an extensive analysis of subject matter jurisdiction, including identifying the type of e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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