Johnson v. HetzelAnnotate this Case
This appeal arose from a circuit court's dismissal of Brandon Johnson's action against Gary Hetzel, warden of the Donaldson Correctional Facility; Sean Carlton, a correctional officer trainee at the facility; and correctional officers Dennis Johnson and Joe Binder. Johnson was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole following a conviction for murder. He was seen fighting with another inmate and placed under "house arrest" pending a disciplinary hearing. Johnson argued that the defendants "deliberately plac[ed] him in 'house arrest' two cells from [another inmate with whom he had the fight], and [that] the defendants were responsible for the protection of both inmates, but instead opened the door to both cells at which time [Johnson] and [the other inmate] got into another fight," in which, Johnson argued, he was injured. Johnson filed an affidavit of substantial hardship, requesting that the initial docket fee for his case be waived. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment. The circuit court granted the defendants' motion and dismissed Johnson's complaint. Johnson has appealed the circuit court's judgment of dismissal, arguing, in pertinent part, that the circuit court never had jurisdiction over his case because he did not pay the necessary filing fee and the circuit court never approved either of the affidavits of substantial hardship he had filed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the filing of a court-approved verified statement of substantial hardship was not met in this case. Therefore, the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to enter its judgment dismissing Johnson's complaint. The Court ruled the circuit court's judgment void. "[B]ecause a void judgment will not support an appeal," the Court vacated the trial court's judgment and dismissed the appeal.