Sentinel’s motion to dismiss denied
Despite strong efforts to the contrary, the slow march toward a decision on the constitutionality of private probation continued Monday, as Judge Danny Craig denied a motion to dismiss the four civil cases enjoined to the habeas corpus petitions Craig ruled on late last month.
The hearing, which lasted a little over an hour, centered on the two-part nature of the petition. The first part, the habeas part, was adjudicated on January 25, when Craig found that State Court Judge David Watkins had not properly advised the petitioners of their rights and then nullified their previous guilty pleas, returning them to a pretrial status.
The second part dealt with damages, the constitutionality of private probation and whether or not Georgia law gives private probation the right to administer electronic monitoring — all things Sentinel Offender Services attorneys were eager to avoid.
Representing Sentinel, attorney Jim Ellington argued that since Craig ruled in January that Sentinel did not ever hold the bodies, it was not a proper respondent to a habeas petition. He also cited cases that confirmed that a private probation company cannot perform more services than those which are directed by the judge’s sentence.
“Sentinel is doing what the State Court said could be done via the sentence,” he said, making it clear that Sentinel itself did not order the petitioners be put on electronic monitoring or assign fees, though later in the proceeding, attorney John Bell, who represented the petitioners, pointed out a case where the prohibition against drinking was not a part of a sentence, yet the petitioner was ordered to wear an alcohol monitoring device.
Ellington also pointed out that since the January 25 ruling, Sentinel has no longer supervised any of the petitioners and therefore should be dismissed from the action.
Bell, however, argued that in spite of the legal technicalities brought up by Ellington, joining together separate issues with a claim of habeas corpus is allowed by law.
“While I understand very well the issue that Sentinel would contend that they are not the proper party in the claim for habeas corpus, they are indeed the proper party for the wrongful conduct we allege in the complaint,” Bell said.
In all four cases, Bell and attorney Jack Long are attacking the constitutionality of private probation and electronic monitoring. They are also seeking damages.
“These cases aren’t going away,” Bell said. “We are determined to get a clear ruling.”
The prolonged judicial wrangling had Craig commenting several times about how unusual the issues were and how unprecedented the situation was.
“What a conundrum,” he said at one point. “I mean, I’ve got it straight — I don’t mean to say to you it’s confusing. But it certainly is a confluence of several issues here.”
In the end, he denied Sentinel’s motion to dismiss the cases, though it was clear from the way he proposed dealing with the issues that he will continue to be as methodical as he’s been up to now. Therefore, any resolution to the big questions in the case will likely be awhile in coming. You Might Also Like: