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Gary Lee Belden v. Robert O. Lampert

May 24, 2011

GARY LEE BELDEN, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
ROBERT O. LAMPERT, DIRECTOR, WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, IN HIS PERSON AS DIRECTOR OF WYOMING OUT OF STATE PRISONERS, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Goshen County The Honorable Keith G. Kautz, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Appellant, Gary Lee Belden, acting pro se, filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending he was denied his constitutional right of access to the courts because he did not have adequate access to Wyoming legal research materials in a Nevada state correctional facility. Appellant challenges the district court's dismissal of his suit based on a failure to state a claim. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Appellant raises the following issues:

1. Whether Appellant's Complaint set forth facts sufficient to support the allegation that inadequate access to legal research materials at a Nevada prison law library caused an actual injury.

2. Whether Appellant's transfer to a different corrections facility five days prior to the hearing on Appellee's Motion to Dismiss prejudiced Appellant's ability to represent himself at the hearing.

FACTS

[¶3] Appellant was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and first-degree murder on October 17, 2000, and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed his convictions, which were upheld by this Court on July 31, 2003, in Belden v. State, 2003 WY 89, 73 P.3d 1041 (Wyo. 2003). Appellant subsequently filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied in Belden v. Wyoming, 540 U.S. 1165, 124 S.Ct. 1179, 157 L.Ed.2d 1212 (2004). Appellant then filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming on July 19, 2004. The District Court denied the petition, and that decision was upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Belden v. Wyo. Dep't of Corr., 251 Fed. Appx. 512 (10th Cir. 2007). Appellant also filed three petitions in this Court seeking relief from his convictions, including a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed on October 30, 2008, a Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed on August 12, 2009, and an additional Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed on October 14, 2009. Those petitions were also denied.

[¶4] On April 28, 2010, Appellant filed this action in the Goshen County District Court, claiming a denial of his constitutional right of access to the courts. More specifically, Appellant claimed he was denied "meaningful access to [the] Wyo[ming] state law library." According to Appellant's Complaint, shortly after his convictions, he was transferred to the High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nevada. Appellant alleged that the law library at the Nevada facility was inadequate because materials on Wyoming law were only available through one LexisNexis computer disc and an "exact cite paging system," in which materials could only be retrieved by identifying precise case names and citations. Appellant further alleged that the personnel at the Nevada facility were not trained in Wyoming law. He asserted that the alleged inadequacies of the law library impeded his ability to comply with "time barriers in state court." Appellant also acknowledged in his Complaint that he was represented by a court-appointed attorney in the proceedings relating to his federal habeas petition.

[¶5] In response to Appellant's Complaint, Appellee filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Appellee claimed that Appellant had failed to allege an actual injury and had failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The district court granted the Motion to Dismiss, finding that Appellant had failed to allege facts sufficient to support a finding of actual injury as required by law. Appellant challenges the decision of the district court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[ΒΆ6] We review the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss using ...


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