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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on May 25, 2012

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General, and Pamela S. Lorch, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Derrick D. Schofield, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Correction; 1 Candice Whisman, Director, Sentence Calculation/Sentence Information Department; Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole; William Parsons, Director, Parole Hearings; and Charles Traughber, Chairperson, Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.

Attorneys 2:

James O. Martin, III, for the Appellee, Danny A. Stewart.

Judge(s): CLARK

We accepted this appeal to clarify the procedures an inmate must follow to dispute the determination of parole eligibility when the inmate is serving consecutive determinate sentences imposed pursuant to the Criminal Sentencing Reform Act of 1989 (“1989 Act”). See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-35-101 to -505 (2010 & Supp. 2011). We clarify that the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (“UAPA”) governs an inmate’s challenge to the Tennessee Department of Correction’s (“TDOC”) calculation of a release eligibility date. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-5-101 to -325 (2011). Under the UAPA, an inmate must request a declaratory order from TDOC before filing a declaratory action in court. Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-225(b). Petitioner failed to seek a declaratory order from TDOC; thus, the trial court properly dismissed his petition for common law writ of certiorari naming TDOC and TDOC officials. The UAPA does not govern an inmate’s challenge to a decision of the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (“Board”) concerning parole. Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-106(c). Rather, the petition for common law writ of certiorari is the procedural vehicle for bringing such challenges. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-8-101 (2000). While Petitioner also named the Board and Board officials in his petition for common law writ of certiorari, the trial court properly granted their motions to dismiss because the allegations of the petition fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted. The method for calculating release eligibility and custodial parole discussed in Howell v. State, 569 S.W.2d 428 (Tenn. 1978) is not applicable to inmates sentenced pursuant to the 1989 Act and serving consecutive determinate sentences for parole-eligible offenses. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the judgment of the chancery court dismissing the petition is reinstated.