Guy v. Lampert

Decision Date23 November 2015
Docket NumberNo. S–15–0106.,S–15–0106.
Citation362 P.3d 331
Parties JonMichael GUY, Appellant (Petitioner), v. Robert LAMPERT, Wyoming Department of Corrections Director, and Steve Hargett, Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution Warden, Appellees (Respondents).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Representing Appellant: Pro se.

Representing Appellees: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; James Michael Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Assistant Attorney General.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ., and FENN, D.J.

FENN, District Judge.

[¶ 1] Appellant, JonMichael Guy ("Guy"), filed a petition for declaratory judgment, asking the district court to find that Director Robert Lampert and Warden Steve Hargett1 (collectively "Appellees"), violated the Wyoming Public Records Act ("WPRA") by delaying the production of a record he had requested under the act. He also asked the district court to declare that the Department of Corrections ("DOC") had to produce certain types of records if he requested them in the future, and he asked for an order requiring the staff of the DOC to be trained on the application of the WPRA. The Appellees filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, or the petition failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Guy then filed a motion to amend his petition. The district court dismissed the petition without ruling on Guy's motion to amend. This appeal followed. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Appellant phrases the issues as follows:

1. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it denied Mr. Guy leave to amend his pleading?
2. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it granted Appellee's (sic) motion to dismiss?

[¶ 3] Appellees phrase the issues as follows:

1. Wyoming Rule of Civil Procedure 12 allows a district court to dismiss a case when the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction or when a complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted. JonMichael Guy's request to view a record under the Wyoming Public Records Act was granted, but he petitioned the district court for additional relief. Did the district court err by dismissing Guy's petition?
2. After a responsive pleading has been filed by the defendant, a plaintiff may amend a complaint only after receiving permission from the court. Guy sought to amend his petition to include citations to the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act even though his claims did not meet its justifiability (sic) requirements. Did the district court abuse its discretion by dismissing his petition without allowing the amendment?
FACTS

[¶ 4] Guy is an inmate at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution. On June 22, 2014, he sent an internal inmate communication form to Steve Hargett, the warden of the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution, requesting permission to view the DOC's Policy and Procedure # 1.215, Code of Ethics. On June 23, 2014, Warden Hargett denied the request on the grounds that the Code of Ethics had not been preapproved for inmate review. Later that day, Guy resubmitted his request, this time stating that it had been filed under the WPRA. Guy also sent a similar request to Steve Lindly, the Deputy Director of the DOC. On June 24, 2014, Warden Hargett denied Guy's request and informed Guy that he was not the person who determined which policies and procedures were available for inmate review, and he did not believe the WPRA applied to the DOC's policies and procedures. Guy took no further action at that time.

[¶ 5] On July 14, 2014, Deputy Director Lindly responded to Guy's June 23, 2014, request. He explained that while the request had initially been denied, the DOC had undertaken further review of the requested policy, had determined that it was a public record, and Guy should be allowed to view it. Arrangements were made for Guy to view the policy in the prison library a few days later.

[¶ 6] On July 18, 2014, Guy filed a grievance against Warden Hargett via the DOC's internal inmate grievance process. Guy alleged that Warden Hargett had unlawfully denied Guy's public records request. As a remedy for his grievance, Guy requested that Warden Hargett receive training on the WPRA and pay a $750.00 fine. Guy's grievance was reviewed by Grievance Manager, Sergeant Shawn Hobson, who concluded that the matter had been resolved because Guy had been allowed to review the requested record. Guy used the prison's internal process to appeal Grievance Manager Hobson's decision. The internal appeal was handled by the Department Prison Division Administrator, Dan Shannon, who likewise determined that no violation of the WPRA had transpired, because Guy had been given access to the requested record.

[¶ 7] On September 5, 2014, Guy submitted a second internal appeal. On this occasion, his appeal was handled by Department Director, Robert Lampert. Guy sought to have Warden Hargett punished for the alleged WPRA violation stating: "Discipline him or I will ask a Judge to do so." Director Lampert reviewed Guy's appeal and ultimately denied the request for a remedy. Director Lampert indicated that at the time the Code of Ethics had been requested, it had not been reviewed for public dissemination consistent with the allowances within the WPRA. He further stated that Guy had been allowed to view the policy once the DOC had conducted the necessary review, so no further action needed to be taken. On October 15, 2014, Guy sent a letter to Director Lampert in response to his denial of Guy's grievance. Guy once again threatened legal action if his "requested remedies [were not] satisfied in full." On October 22, 2014, Director Lampert replied to Guy's letter, but he did not reconsider his position on the alleged violation of the WPRA.

[¶ 8] On November 7, 2014, Guy filed his petition for declaratory judgment, naming Director Lampert and Warden Hargett as respondents. Guy alleged that Warden Hargett had violated the WPRA by initially denying his public records request. The petition stated that the suit was being brought pursuant to the WPRA, but the jurisdictional statement also stated that the district court had authority to grant a declaratory judgment pursuant to W.R.C.P. 57 and the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act ("UDJA"), Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1–37–102 and 103 (LexisNexis 2015). Guy asked for the following forms of relief:

36. Petitioner seeks declaratory judgment Ordering that WDOC policy is subject to the WPRA, that the term "reviewed in light of public dissemination" does not fall within one of the statutory exceptions for nondisclosure of a public record, that in withdrawing a record a custodian is required to petition the District Court for permission to withhold the record and may not blanket-block any class of records, that a custodian denying a public record must state to the applicant requesting the record his legal reason/s for nondisclosure.
37. Petitioner seeks declaratory judgment Decreeing that defendant Hargett's decision to withhold the record in contention because he believed WDOC policy is not subject to the WPRA or because he doesn't decide what WDOC policies are available for inmate review is contrary to law.
38. Petitioner seeks declaratory judgment Decreeing that in violating the WPRA and misapplying the law, defendants have violated Petitioner's constitutional rights.
39. Petitioner seeks an injunction Ordering defendants to take the most efficacious method to effect training on public records dissemination amongst themselves and their staff, or to otherwise educate themselves in matters concerning the same.
40. Petitioner seeks declaratory judgment Decreeing that the term "Approved for Inmate Distribution" as used to segregate WDOC policy is contrary to the WPRA.
41. Petitioner seeks an injunction Ordering the defendants to revise any and all WDOC policy or Operational Procedure which may be in any way contrary to the intent of the WPRA.
42. Petitioner seeks an injunction Permanently Enjoining the WDOC, its agents and/or representatives, from violating the timelines delineated by the WPRA without just cause, under strict threat of the civil penalty delineated by W.S. § 16–4–205 to be paid out of a violator's personal monies. Petitioner states that it is necessary for a violator to pay the penalty out of his personal monies and not be indemnified by his agency as it would be highly counterintuitive to use State funds to repay the State for a violation of its laws.
43. Petitioner seeks compensation for any and all costs inherent to this action. Such costs shall include but shall not be limited to compensation for all cost incurred for service and process, copies, time spent, postage, filing fee(s), and the like.
44. Petitioner seeks such other relief to which it may appear to this Court is just and proper. (Emphasis in original.)

[¶ 9] On January 12, 2015, Appellees moved to dismiss Guy's petition, on the grounds that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, because the remedies set forth in the WPRA did not include the relief that Guy was seeking. The Appellees alleged that the WPRA only allows an applicant, like Guy, to bring the custodian of a requested record before the district court to explain a delay in producing a record or to show cause why the records request was denied. The Appellees further argued that, because Guy had ultimately been able to review the Code of Ethics, the WPRA did not afford him any remedies.

[¶ 10] On January 22, 2015, Guy filed a motion to amend his petition along with a proposed amended petition. Guy wished to amend his petition to clarify that it was brought under the UDJA, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1–37–101 through 1–37–115 (LexisNexis 2015). He also added a paragraph to the jurisdictional statement alleging that his claims for injunctive relief were authorized by W.R.C.P. 65 and Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1–28–102 (LexisNexis 2015). Other than these two changes, the proposed amended petition was identical...

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