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Jackson v. Director of Department of Corrections

Court of Appeals of Michigan

August 13, 2019

GARY JACKSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant-Appellee.

          Ingham Circuit Court LC No. 17-000853-AA

          Before: M. J. Kelly, P.J., and Boonstra and Riordan, JJ.

          BOONSTRA, J.

         Plaintiff appeals by delayed leave granted[1] the trial court's order dismissing for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction his appeal of a Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) misconduct ruling. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         I. PERTINENT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff is an inmate confined at Ojibway Correctional Facility. In 2017, MDOC employees concluded that plaintiff had received an unauthorized transfer of funds to his prisoner account by another prisoner, in violation of MDOC policy. Plaintiff was charged with Class II misconduct. After an informal hearing at which plaintiff pleaded not guilty, an MDOC hearing officer found plaintiff guilty of Class II misconduct and sanctioned plaintiff with a loss of privileges for 15 days and the confiscation of $250 from his prisoner account.[2] Plaintiff appealed the ruling to the deputy warden, arguing in part that plaintiff's right to procedural due process had been violated and that the violation resulted in his loss of property. The deputy warden denied his appeal. Plaintiff then appealed to the trial court, again asserting that his constitutional right to due process had been violated and that the violation had unconstitutionally deprived him of property. The trial court dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, stating that only Class I misconduct findings were subject to judicial review, citing an unpublished opinion of this Court. The trial court denied plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

         This appeal followed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review de novo as a question of law whether a trial court has subject-matter jurisdiction over a claim. Harris v Vernier, 242 Mich.App. 306, 309; 617 N.W.2d 764 (2000).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff's argues that the trial court erred by concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over his appeal. We agree.

         "Subject-matter jurisdiction refers to a court's power to act and authority to hear and determine a case." Forest Hills Co-operative v Ann Arbor, 305 Mich.App. 572, 617; 854 N.W.2d 172 (2014). Michigan's circuit courts are courts of general jurisdiction. Okrie v Michigan, 306 Mich.App. 445, 467; 857 N.W.2d 254 (2014).

         The trial court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because Class II prisoner misconduct rulings are not subject to judicial review. Citing an unpublished decision of this Court, the trial court reasoned that plaintiff's loss of privileges for 15 days did not amount to the loss of good time or disciplinary credits, which are judicially reviewable. The trial court did not consider, however, plaintiff's claimed loss of property or whether the circumstances of this case gave rise to a ...


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