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Chapman v. Wyoming Dep't of Corr.

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 15, 2016

JOHN LESLIE CHAPMAN, Appellant (Plaintiff),
WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution, ROBERT O. LAMPERT, Director, STEVE HARGETT, Warden, KELLI DOLAN, CPL Property Officer, Appellees (Defendants)

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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

Representing Appellant: Pro se.

Representing Appellees: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; John D. Rossetti, Deputy Attorney General; Jackson M. Engels, Assistant Attorney General.

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


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SKAR, District Judge.

[¶1] Appellant, John Chapman, seeks review of an order of the district court disposing of his civil claims through the granting of summary judgment in favor of Defendants/Appellees, Wyoming Department of Corrections, Robert O. Lampert, Steve Hargett, and Kelli Dolan, CPL, who will collectively be referred to as " DOC." We affirm.


[¶2] Chapman raises six issues which the DOC rephrased to more closely reflect Chapman's arguments and to be consistent with the civil actions resolved by the district court. We restate the issues as follows:

I. Did the district court abuse its discretion by allowing the DOC to file a second motion for summary judgment following the partial denial of its first motion?
II. Based on the undisputed facts of this case, did the pre- and post deprivation remedy provided to Chapman satisfy his right to procedural due process?
III. Are the Government officials who are the subject of Chapman's claims entitled to qualified immunity?
IV. Did Chapman comply with the jurisdictional requirements of the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-113?
V. Does the doctrine of sovereign immunity bar Chapman's claims against the State of Wyoming, two state agencies, and three state officials?


[¶4] On July 24, 2013, Chapman filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action in the district court for Goshen County asserting four constitutional claims based on the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and one state law claim of negligence. Appellant's claims allege that while he was an inmate in the state of Wyoming, under the supervision and control of the DOC, he was deprived of his personal property when penitentiary staff confiscated three televisions at different times; that the DOC violated his right to due process and that the deprivation of property caused him injury for which he is entitled to damages; and that he was wrongfully deprived of his property through the negligence of the DOC. Appellees provide the following timeline of events leading up to, and forming the basis of, Chapman's allegations:

1. June 4, 2010 -- While an inmate at the Wyoming State Penitentiary (WSP), Chapman purchased a Clear Tunes Digital television (referred to hereafter as Television 1) and a remote controller from the prison commissary.
2. December 2, 2011 -- Chapman was transferred to Wyoming Medium Correctional

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Institution (WMCI). Chapman's authorized property was also transferred to WMCI.
3. February 22, 2012 -- Chapman was transferred to administrative segregation pending an institutional investigation. While Chapman was segregated, his property was inventoried and stored in the prison's property room. When his segregation was lifted two days later, he was returned to his housing unit and his personal property was returned to him. Television 1 and its remote was not one of the personal property items returned to Chapman when he was returned to his housing unit on February 24, 2012.
4. Chapman alleges Television 1 was lost or taken from him while he was in administrative segregation. Chapman also alleges that he discussed the missing television with Cpl. Kelli Dolan who informed Chapman that " as soon as they had time they would look for it and return it to him once it was found." Appellant claims he also spoke about the missing television with Warden Steve Hargett.
5. March 16, 2012 -- Television 1 (and the remote control) was found in another inmate's property in violation of WDOC Policy #3.006 and confiscated as a result.
6. Although he alleges that he discussed the " lost" or " taken" television with Cpl. Dolan and Warden Hargett, Chapman did not file a formal inmate grievance or grievance appeal related to Television 1.
7. Chapman alleges that he was never notified that his television was found in the possession of another inmate and confiscated as a result. Chapman argues that the failure of the DOC to return Television 1 to him when they discovered it in the possession of another inmate deprived him of due process. Throughout his appellate brief, Chapman's argument is: " [W]hen Appellees discovered their mistake and found Appellant's property they confiscated it and never notified him nor was he given a copy of the confiscation form in March, 2012. This also deprived Appellant of his grievance process, there was no written notice or an opportunity to defend himself before depriving him and destroying his property. This is what violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore violated Appellant's rights." (Emphasis in original.)
8. June 18, 2012 -- A second television was found in Chapman's cell -- Television 2. The inmate identification number on Television 2 was rubbed off and a new number scratched in. Television 2 was deemed " altered property" in violation of Department Policy and Procedure #3.006 and confiscated. It is unclear if this is the same television that was previously confiscated from another inmate (Television 1). Chapman argues it is the same television and that it was " re-confiscated" by DOC on June 18, 2012.
9. June 25, 2012 -- Chapman filed an " Inmate Request Form" arguing that Television 2 should be returned to him.
10. June 27, 2012 -- Property Control Officer Kelly Dolan responded to Chapman in writing refusing to return Television 2 because it had been altered and was now contraband.
11. July 3, 2012 -- Chapman filed grievance number 12-0131 pertaining to Television 2, requesting that it be returned to him or " the money put back on [his] books."
12. July 11, 2012 -- Grievance Manager, Sergeant Michael McManis, conducted an examination of Television 2 and confirmed that the inmate ID number was rubbed off and a new number was scratched in. Sergeant McManis found that Television 2 had been altered in violation of policy and had been appropriately confiscated as contraband.
13. July 17, 2012 -- Sergeant McManis responded to Chapman in writing, informing him " there should be no resolution or remedy granted" because " the number [on the television] has been rubbed off and a new number was scratched in."
14. July 18, 2012 -- Chapman appealed the grievance to Warden Steve Hargett of the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution.
15. July 27, 2012 -- After reviewing all of the information concerning Chapman's grievance, including Television 2 itself, Warden Hargett responded to Chapman

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in writing informing him that Grievance #12-0131 had been found to be without merit and denied. Warden Hargett informed Chapman that if he was dissatisfied, he could appeal the decision to Department Director Robert Lampert according to the instructions in Policy and Procedure #3.100.
16. August 13, 2012 -- After reviewing the file and contents therein regarding Television 2, Director Lampert dismissed grievance #12-0131 and responded to Chapman in writing that " [i]f the [television] set was yours, it has been altered, which is now contraband and prevents it from being in the housing area. ... The television confiscated from you did not have a sticker on it, and a new number was scratched into the set confiscated. ... The television that was confiscated was not properly marked [and] it is considered contraband. As the television was either altered ...

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