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Hudgins v. Anthony

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

May 22, 2015

John C. Hudgins
v.
Stephen Joel Anthony

          Appeal from Cherokee Circuit Court. (CV-14-1).

         All the judges concur.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         John C. 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.

         In 2012, Hudgins was convicted of trafficking in marijuana and sentenced to 15

Page 190

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.

         Along 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.)

         The 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.

         In July 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 stated:

" 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.)

         Hudgins 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.

         In 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 ...

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