John C. Hudgins
Stephen Joel Anthony
from Cherokee Circuit Court. (CV-14-1).
Hudgins, an inmate incarcerated at the Childersburg Work
Release Center (" the work-release center" ),
appeals from a judgment of the Cherokee Circuit Court ("
the trial court" ) dismissing an action he had brought
against Stephen Joel Anthony. We reverse and remand.
2012, Hudgins was convicted of trafficking in marijuana and
sentenced to 15
years in prison. In January 2014, after he had begun serving
his sentence, Hudgins, acting pro se, sued Anthony. Hudgins
alleged that, in 2013, Anthony had converted Hudgins's
mobile home (" the mobile home" ), which was
located in Cherokee County. As relief, Hudgins sought
compensatory damages in the amount of $5,000, punitive
damages in the amount of $25,000, and an order compelling
Anthony to vacate the mobile home.
with his complaint, Hudgins filed an affidavit of substantial
hardship seeking an order waiving the payment initially of
the docket fee and service fees. In response to that
affidavit, the trial court entered an order stating: "
Affidavit of Hardship filed by John C. Hudgins ... is hereby
GRANTED. Prepayment of the docket fee is hereby waived, but
the Court reserves the right to tax [Hudgins] with costs
during or at the conclusion of the case."
(Capitalization in original.)
return on service following the initial attempt to serve
Anthony with process indicated that he was not at the mobile
home. Hudgins then notified the trial court that
Anthony's address was the Cherokee County Jail ("
the jail" ), and service of process on Anthony was
subsequently perfected. Answering Hudgins's complaint,
Anthony denied that he had converted the mobile home.
2014, the trial court set the action for a bench trial on
September 3, 2014. In August 2014, Hudgins filed a motion
(" the motion for transport" ) seeking an order
directing the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department to
transport him from the work-release center to the trial on
September 3, 2014. The trial court denied the motion for
transport in an order entered on August 7, 2014, which
" Motion to transport from confinement in prison to the
civil trial (unrelated to his incarceration) in this case
filed by John C. Hudgins ... is hereby DENIED. However,
[Hudgins] shall be allowed to present testimony in compliance
with Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure 30-31. Strict adherence
to those rules will be expected."
(Capitalization in original; emphasis added.)
subsequently filed a motion asking the trial court to
reconsider its denial of the motion for transport, which the
trial court denied. Hudgins then filed a motion seeking a
continuance of the September 3, 2014, trial setting so that
he could take depositions pursuant to Rules 30 and 31, Ala.
R. Civ. P., before trial. The trial court granted that motion
and reset the trial for November 12, 2014.
September 2014, Hudgins filed a motion asking the trial court
to appoint an officer (" the motion for the appointment
of an officer" ) before whom depositions upon written
questions could be taken pursuant to Rule 31, Ala. R. Civ.
P., and to set a date for those depositions. In pertinent
part, the motion for the appointment of an officer stated:
" 3. Rule 31(a), A[la]. R. Civ. P., provides that
'[a]fter commencement of the action, any party may take
the testimony of any person, including a party, by deposition
upon written questions.' The ...