Bird v. Lampert, 012221 WYSC, S-20-0149

Docket Nº:S-20-0149
Opinion Judge:GRAY, JUSTICE.
Party Name:CHESTER LOYDE BIRD, Appellant (Plaintiff), v. ROBERT O. LAMPERT, in his official capacity as Director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, Appellee (Defendant).
Attorney:Representing Appellant: Chester Loyde Bird, pro se. Representing Appellee: Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Samuel Williams, Assistant Attorney General.
Judge Panel:Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Case Date:January 22, 2021
Court:Supreme Court of Wyoming

2021 WY 11

CHESTER LOYDE BIRD, Appellant (Plaintiff),

v.

ROBERT O. LAMPERT, in his official capacity as Director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, Appellee (Defendant).

No. S-20-0149

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 22, 2021

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

Representing Appellant: Chester Loyde Bird, pro se.

Representing Appellee: Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Samuel Williams, Assistant Attorney General.

Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

GRAY, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Chester Loyde Bird is serving concurrent life sentences for crimes he committed in the 1990s. Mr. Bird filed a pro se complaint under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, alleging that the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) inmate classification policies are rules, and because those rules were not filed with the Secretary of State, they are invalid. Therefore, he claims his recent inmate classification is void. The district court dismissed his complaint. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Is the WDOC's inmate classification policy a rule required to be filed with the Secretary of State?

FACTS

[¶3] In 1994, Mr. Bird pled guilty to kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault. He was adjudicated a habitual criminal and was sentenced to serve two concurrent life sentences. Bird v. State, 901 P.2d 1123, 1125, 1128 (Wyo. 1995); see also Bird v. Lampert, 2019 WY 56, 441 P.3d 850 (Wyo. 2019).

[¶4] This matter began in January 2020, when Mr. Bird filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment. He alleged that at his recent annual inmate reclassification, he scored "minimum custody" but, because he was subject to a "custody classification override," he was classified as "medium custody." This classification caused him to be ineligible for minimum security housing in facilities such as the Wyoming Honor Farm or the Honor Conservation Camp.

[¶5] WDOC Policy and Procedure #4.1011 (Policy 4.101), which governs inmate classifications, was not filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State. Mr. Bird alleged that WDOC policies and procedures are "rules" and that Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 25-1-105(a) requires rules to be filed with the Secretary of State. He claimed the failure to file the WDOC policies and procedures with the Secretary of State renders them, and any actions taken pursuant to them, void. Mr. Bird sought declarations that the WDOC policies and procedures are unenforceable and that actions taken pursuant to those policies and procedures "affecting [him] in a negative manner" are "null and void." He also sought an injunction prohibiting the WDOC from applying its policies and procedures to him. The defendant, WDOC Director Robert Lampert, filed a motion to dismiss under W.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. He argued that WDOC's policies and procedures are not "rules" as defined by the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act. He also argued, even if the policies and procedures are "rules," the failure to file them with the Secretary of State does not render them void. The district court granted Mr. Lampert's motion to dismiss, ruling that the WDOC policies and procedures are not rules and therefore, were not required to be filed. Mr. Bird appeals.

DISCUSSION

I. Is the WDOC's inmate classification policy a rule required to be filed with the Secretary of State?

[¶6] The district court held that Policy 4.101 concerns only the internal management of the institutions under WDOC. It does not affect the public and is not the equivalent of prescribing law. Therefore, it is exempt from the statutory definition of "rule." The court concluded that, because Policy 4.101 is not a rule, it is not invalid even though it was not filed with the Secretary of State. Mr. Bird argues that the district court was "clearly wrong" and that WDOC policies and procedures are "rules and regulations" under the express provisions of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-101(b)(ix) and therefore must be filed with the Secretary of State to be effective.[2]

A. Standard of Review

[¶7] A district court's dismissal of a complaint for failing to state a claim under W.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) is reviewed de novo. Whitham v. Feller, 2018 WY 43, ¶ 13, 415 P.3d 1264, 1267 (Wyo. 2018). This Court applies the same standards and examines the same materials as the district court. Bextel v. Fork Rd. LLC, 2020 WY 134, ¶ 11, 474 P.3d 625, 628-29 (Wyo. 2020) (citing Dockter v. Lozano, 2020 WY 119, ¶ 6, 472 P.3d 362, 364 (Wyo. 2020)). "We accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to [Mr. Bird, ] the nonmoving part[y]." Id. "Dismissal is appropriate if it is certain from the face of the complaint that [Mr. Bird] cannot assert any fact that would entitle [him] to relief." Id. Likewise, statutory construction is a question of law, subject to de novo review. Wyoming Guardianship Corp. v. Wyoming State Hosp., 2018 WY 114, ¶ 7, 428 P.3d 424, 429 (Wyo. 2018).

[¶8] "When we interpret statutes, our goal is to give effect to the intent of the legislature, and we 'attempt to determine the legislature's intent based primarily on the plain and ordinary meaning of the words used in the statute.'" Matter of Adoption of MAJB, 2020 WY 157, ¶ 15, ___ P.3d ___, ___ (Wyo. 2020) (quoting Wyoming Jet Ctr., LLC v. Jackson Hole Airport Bd., 2019 WY 6, ¶ 12, 432 P.3d 910, 915 (Wyo. 2019)). "Where legislative intent is discernible a court should give effect to the 'most likely, most reasonable, interpretation of the statute, given its design and purpose.'" Wyoming Jet Ctr., ¶ 12, 432 P.3d at 915 (quoting PacifiCorp, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, State, 2017 WY 106, ¶ 10, 401 P.3d 905, 908 (Wyo. 2017) (quoting Adekale v. State, 2015 WY 30, ¶ 12, 344 P.3d 761, 765 (Wyo. 2015))). We therefore construe each statutory provision in pari materia, giving effect to every word, clause, and sentence according to their arrangement and connection. To ascertain the meaning of a given law, we also consider all statutes relating to the same subject or having the same general purpose and strive to interpret them harmoniously. We presume that the legislature has acted in a thoughtful and rational manner with full knowledge of existing law, and that it intended new statutory provisions to be read in harmony with existing law and as part of an overall and uniform system of jurisprudence. When the words used convey a specific and obvious meaning, we need not go farther and engage in statutory construction.

MAJB, ¶ 15, ____ P.3d at ____ (quoting PacifiCorp, ¶ 10, 401 P.3d at 908-09 (quoting Nicodemus v. Lampert, 2014 WY 135, ¶ 13, 336 P.3d 671, 674 (Wyo. 2014))).

B. Analysis

[¶9] Mr. Bird argues that this Court has already determined Policy 4.101 is a rule that must be filed according to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 25-1-105. He cites Cosco v. Lampert, 2010 WY 52, ¶ 11, 229 P.3d 962, 967 (Wyo. 2010) in support of this argument. In Cosco, an inmate claimed that under the WDOC grievance process the WDOC staff had wrongfully deprived him of property. Cosco, ¶ 3, 229 P.3d at 964. In its discussion, the Court addressed Mr. Cosco's use of the grievance process and said that grievance procedures "are the sort of rules and regulations contemplated by § 25-1-105 and the final result of an inmate grievance is not a matter that may be...

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