Richard S. Jones, Petitioner-Appellant
Dean Williams, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Respondent-Appellee
from the District Court Fremont County District Court Case
No. 18CV35 Honorable Robert Freeman, Magistrate
Richard S. Jones, pro se Olney Springs, Colorado
Attorneys for Respondent-Appellee: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney
General Alison Faryl Kyles, Assistant Solicitor General
The Habeas Corpus Act requires that a habeas petition
"be accompanied by a copy of the warrant of
commitment." § 13-45-101(1), C.R.S. (2018). In this
habeas corpus appeal, we consider whether a district court
may summarily dismiss a petition for lack of jurisdiction
when the petition includes the petitioner's mittimus for
his latest conviction but does not include the mittimuses for
two earlier convictions, which he asserts are relevant to his
habeas claim. To resolve this issue, we review the
constitutional and statutory authority authorizing habeas
corpus and our prior caselaw discussing the warrant
requirement. We conclude that noncompliance with the warrant
requirement does not deprive courts of jurisdiction over
habeas corpus petitions. We overrule our prior cases holding
that failing to provide a copy of the warrant of commitment
is a jurisdictional defect, deprives the court of authority
to act on a habeas petition, and requires summary dismissal.
Accordingly, we reverse the district court's order
dismissing the habeas petition for lack of jurisdiction and
remand to the district court for further consideration.
Facts and Procedural History
Richard S. Jones filed a habeas corpus petition in the
district court challenging the Department of Corrections'
("DOC") calculation of his parole eligibility date
("PED"). Jones asserted that the DOC used only his
latest 2008 conviction to calculate his PED, but, to
correctly calculate his PED, he believed that the DOC's
calculation should include two earlier convictions from 1991.
If his PED was calculated utilizing the 1991 convictions,
Jones argued that he had passed his PED and was being
unlawfully denied consideration for parole. His habeas
petition included the mittimus for the 2008 conviction but
did not include the mittimuses for the two 1991 convictions.
In response to Jones's petition, the DOC moved to dismiss
for lack of jurisdiction. The DOC characterized Jones's
failure to include all three of his mittimuses as a
"jurisdictional failure which requires dismissal."
The district court granted the DOC's motion and dismissed
Jones appealed the district court's order to this court.
See Colo. Const. art. VI, § 2 (outlining
appellate jurisdiction of the supreme court); §
13-4-102(1)(e), C.R.S. (2018) (excluding habeas corpus
appeals from the jurisdiction of the court of appeals);
see also Nowak v. Suthers, 2014 CO 14, ¶ 11,
320 P.3d 340, 343.
Jones is representing himself. In his appellate briefs, he
reasserts the merits of the claims he outlined in his habeas
corpus petition. Pleadings by pro se litigants must be
broadly construed to ensure that they are not denied review
of important issues because of their inability to articulate
their argument like a lawyer. See People v.
Bergerud, 223 P.3d 686, 696-97 (Colo. 2010). Broadly
construed, Jones argues that he was entitled to a ruling on
the merits, and the district court should not have dismissed
Relying on this court's precedent, the DOC contends that
the district court properly dismissed the petition because
the district court lacked jurisdiction as a result of
Jones's failure to provide all three of his
When, as here, the challenge to the court's jurisdiction
involves no disputed facts and instead involves interpreting
a statutory requirement, we review the district court's
dismissal order de novo. St. Vrain Valley Sch. Dist.
RE-1J v. Loveland, 2017 CO 54, ¶ 10, 395 P.3d 751,
754; Nowak, ¶ 17, 320 P.3d at 344. In
interpreting a statutory requirement, we must give effect to
the General Assembly's intent. Colorow Health Care,
LLC v. Fischer, 2018 CO 52M, ¶ 11, 420 P.3d 259,
262. To determine that intent, we look at the statute's
plain language, apply the text as written, and read the words
in context giving the words their ordinary meanings.
To decide whether the warrant requirement of section
13-45-101(1) is a jurisdictional requirement, we review the
constitutional and statutory authority allowing habeas
corpus. We also revisit our caselaw discussing the warrant
requirement. We disagree with the DOC and conclude that the
statutory requirement that a habeas petition "be
accompanied by a copy of the warrant of commitment" is
not jurisdictional. Therefore, noncompliance with the statute
does not deprive the court of authority to act on the
petition. When a habeas petition's allegations involve
multiple sentences from multiple ...