Johnnie Davis

Johnnie Davis

A parolee who was mistakenly caught in a dragnet following the discovery that Nebraska prisons had released hundreds of inmates early has lost his appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

In an opinion Friday, the court said Johnnie W. Davis' lawsuit against the state, Parole Board, Department of Correctional Services, Attorney General's Office and others was barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects the government from being sued, with rare exceptions.

Davis was paroled in 2012 for attempted second-degree murder and a gun charge for firing on Lincoln police during what started as a traffic stop in 1995. In the case, he had been found to be a habitual criminal.

In 2014, the Corrections Department got a warrant for his arrest after it was discovered the department had been miscalculating release dates for dozens of inmates, including habitual criminals.

Before Davis turned himself in June 25, 2014, he told the department and his parole officer that the mandatory minimum provision didn't apply to him.

The law that created mandatory minimum sentences for habitual criminal convictions didn't go into effect until September 1995 and wasn't retroactive.

"Because of this mistake, the Parole Board revoked his parole and reincarcerated him for nearly two months before releasing him on parole again," Justice Jeffrey Funke wrote.

After Davis got out Aug. 22, 2014, he filed a tort claim, then sued, saying state employees had negligently violated his civil rights by failing to research the law and by applying the wrong law to calculate his parole eligibility.

Davis alleged they had been deliberately indifferent to his protests and that the 59 days in prison before they released him was more than an insignificant amount of time.

But Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret dismissed the case against the Parole Board, finding it couldn't be sued "because they perform a quasi-judicial function that is inherently discretionary."

Maret dismissed the other entities from the case, too, because they had no authority over the decision to revoke his parole.

Davis' attorney argued on appeal that the Parole Board wasn't entitled to immunity because it wasn't exercising discretion based on his conduct.

The Supreme Court found the Parole Board had exercised its discretion to revoke a parole "in reliance on information provided to it from the department."

"Nebraska's statutes require the department to provide the Parole Board with its calculations, and the Parole Board is entitled to rely on them," Funke wrote.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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