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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Eddie H. McFadden, #215185 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Eddie H. McFadden, #215185

South Carolina Department of Corrections



Grievance No. ECI-1314-99

This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the Department's Motion to Dismiss and Request for Stay filed June 2, 2000. The Department asserts the Division does not have jurisdiction to hear this appeal. The Department specifically asserts Appellant is appealing a final decision rendered prior to February 14, 2000, and there is no evidence Appellant had a case pending in circuit court on February 14, 2000. Appellant filed a response to the Department's Motion to Dismiss, asserting that review of the Department's final decisions has always been available under the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA") and, therefore, the Division has jurisdiction to hear his appeal.

Contrary to Appellant's assertion, prior to February 14, 2000, inmates wishing to appeal internal disciplinary convictions filed an application for PCR in circuit court within one year after a newly-created and retroactively-applied standard or right. See S.C. Code Ann. § 17-27-45(A) (Supp. 1995). In Al-Shabazz, however, the South Carolina Supreme Court greatly restricted the use of PCR by inmates to complain about the conditions of their confinement. Instead of filing a PCR application, a challenge of a "non-collateral matter" (i.e., a matter in which the inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence) arising out of an inmate grievance is subject to review pursuant to the APA. The Court reasoned that "[p]lacing review of these cases within the ambit of the APA will ensure that an inmate receives due process, which consists of notice, a hearing, and judicial review." 338 S.C. at 369, 527 S.E.2d at 750. The Court, however, provided that its decision only will apply to:

all PCR actions filed and all administrative matters in which Department renders a final decision after the date of this opinion. It also shall apply to all cases currently pending in circuit court or before this Court in . . . cases in which Department has decided a non-collateral or administrative matter and the inmate has not had the opportunity to obtain APA review in the manner we have outlined.

338 S.C. at 384, 527 S.E.2d at 758. Based on the Court's decision, it appears the Division's jurisdiction to hear inmate appeals does not extend to cases in which the inmate had not filed a PCR application in circuit court as of February 14, 2000, even though the one-year statute of limitations had not run as of that date.

Due process requires that the claims of inmates in these particular circumstances must be heard by either a PCR court or the Division. See Gillespie v. Pickens County, 197 S.C. 217, 14 S.E.2d 900 (1941) (While the Legislature may reduce the period in which actions may be brought and may make such reduction applicable to existing causes of action, the Legislature "may not entirely take away the right to sue, nor so unreasonably shorten the period as practically to take away all remedy.") (quoting 16 C.J.S. Constitutional Law § 615). Because the Court unequivocally foreclosed the ability of inmates to appeal final decisions of the Department in a non-collateral matter through PCR after February 14, 2000, the only available avenue of relief in these cases is for an inmate to file a Notice of Appeal with the Division. The remaining question is when the Notice of Appeal must be filed under these circumstances.

The South Carolina Supreme Court previously held that "no new limitation shall be made to affect existing claims without allowing a reasonable time for parties to bring actions before their claims are absolutely barred by a new enactment." Peloquin v. State, 321 S.C. 468, 470, 469 S.E.2d 606, 607 (1996). In Peloquin, a new statute effective July 1, 1995, created a one-year statute of limitations for PCR actions where no such time limit previously existed. Because the Legislature did not provide for a time in which applications otherwise barred by the one-year statute of limitations could be brought, the Court determined that all inmates convicted prior to the effective date of the statute should be allowed one year after its effective date to file a PCR application. Whereas Peloquin filed his PCR application on or before July 1, 1996, the Court determined that his application was timely filed.

Although Peloquin addresses a legislative change affecting the rights of inmates, I find no reason to distinguish a judicial change such as the removal of non-collateral matters from PCR. Pursuant to the APA and Al-Shabazz, an inmate must file a Notice of Appeal within thirty days of receipt of written notice of the Department's final decision. Inmates who had not filed a PCR application in circuit court as of February 14, 2000, and whose one-year statute of limitations had not run as of that date could have filed a Notice of Appeal with the Division within thirty days of the date the South Carolina Supreme Court issued the Al-Shabazz decision. Appellant, therefore, could have filed his Notice of Appeal on or before March 15, 2000.

In this case, however, Appellant filed his Notice of Appeal on March 29, 2000. The failure to timely file a Notice of Appeal deprives a court of appellate jurisdiction. See Dewitt v. South Carolina Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 274 S.C. 184, 262 S.E.2d 28 (1980) (a circuit court's jurisdiction over a magistrate's decision is appellate in nature and a circuit court does not have the right to extend the time within which an appeal may be taken from the magistrate's decision). Because the Division acts as an appellate court in inmate cases filed pursuant to Al-Shabazz, the Division lacks jurisdiction in cases where the inmate fails to timely file a Notice of Appeal. As a result, the Division lacks jurisdiction in this case.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Department's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this case is dismissed.




Chief Administrative Law Judge

November 13, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina


You are entitled to appeal this final order of the Administrative Law Judge Division by filing a petition for judicial review in circuit court and serving such petition on opposing parties within thirty (30) days after receipt of this order. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-610 (Supp. 1999). The petition may be filed in any circuit court as long as the chosen forum is neither arbitrary nor unreasonable, and provided that no statute controls venue in a particular type of case. The review of the administrative law judge's order must be confined to the record. The reviewing tribunal may affirm the decision or remand the case for further proceedings; or it may reverse or modify the decision if the substantive rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the finding, conclusion, or decision is: (a) in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (b) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency; (c) made upon unlawful procedure; (d) affected by other error of law; (e) clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the whole record; or (f) arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.

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