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Barela v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 2, 2017

STEVEN R. BARELA, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: Pro se.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Katherine A. Adams, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          KAUTZ, Justice.

         [¶1] Steven R. Barela challenges the district court's order denying two motions. We dismiss this appeal because Mr. Barela's motions attempt to raise issues outside the jurisdiction of the district court and this Court.

         BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In 1994, Mr. Barela murdered his wife. In 1995, he pled guilty to second-degree murder and the district court sentenced him to a term of twenty-eight years to life. Mr. Barela did not appeal that sentence. Later, Mr. Barela filed a motion for sentence reduction, which the district court denied. This Court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion for sentence reduction. Barela v. State, 936 P.2d 66 (Wyo. 1997) (Barela I). In 1999, Mr. Barela filed a petition for post-conviction relief with this Court, which we denied. In 2000, he filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the district court denied. We affirmed the denial of Mr. Barela's request to withdraw his guilty plea. Barela v. State, 2002 WY 143, 55 P.3d 11 (Wyo. 2002) (Barela II). In 2015, Mr. Barela filed a motion which requested a writ of habeas corpus, withdrawal of his guilty plea and correction or reduction of his sentence. The district court denied those motions, and once again Mr. Barela appealed. We determined that we had no jurisdiction to consider an appeal of the habeas corpus issue or of the untimely motions to withdraw guilty plea and to reduce sentence. We considered Mr. Barela's claim that his sentence was illegal and affirmed the district court because the sentence was not illegal. Barela v. State, 2016 WY 68, 375 P.3d 783 (Wyo. 2016) (Barela III).

         [¶3] In August 2016, Mr. Barela filed two motions in his criminal case. The first was titled "Motion for: Copy of Records & Order to Perform Duty as prescribed by Law in Violation of and Pursuant to W.S. § 7-13-104 & Wyoming Criminal History Records Act 7-19-101 through 7-19-109 & Wyoming Public Records Act - W.S. §§ 16-4-201 through 16-4-205 & Freedom of Information Act." In that motion he requested that the district court "order the Wyoming Department of Corrections to provide a true copy of all the defendant's records . . . at the State's expense . . . ." Mr. Barela titled his second motion as "Motion for: De Novo Review/Clarification of Sentence, Pursuant to W.S. § 7-13-201 & W.S. § 6-10-104 Maximum and Minimum Term of Sentence." He requested an order "granting the Defendant the right to what the length of time that this Court expected the Defendant to serve on his sentence." [sic] The district court denied both motions, finding that "Mr. Barela has presented no substantive grounds for his motions and no cogent legal argument in support of his requests." Mr. Barela appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         Motion for Records

         [¶4] Although the district court denied Mr. Barela's motion for failure to provide any "substantive grounds or cogent legal argument, " we may affirm a district court's decision "on any proper legal grounds supported by the record." Allgier v. State, 2015 WY 137, ¶ 11, 358 P.3d 1271, 1275 (Wyo. 2015). At the outset, "every court has the duty to ensure the proper exercise of its jurisdiction." Lee v. State, 2007 WY 81, ¶ 5, 157 P.3d 947, 948 (Wyo. 2007). "Whether subject matter jurisdiction exists is a question of law that we review de novo." Kurtenbach v. State, 2012 WY 162, ¶ 10, 290 P.3d 1101, 1104 (Wyo. 2012).

         [¶5] In his first motion, Mr. Barela asked the district court, within the confines of Mr. Barela's criminal case, to require the Wyoming Department of Corrections to produce records under the Wyoming Criminal History Records Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 7-19-102 through 109 (LexisNexis 2015). The Wyoming Criminal History Records Act relates to "information, records and data compiled by criminal justice agencies on individuals for the purpose of identifying criminal offenders . . . ." Section 7-19-103(a)(ii). However, Mr. Barela did not indicate he was requesting any specific identifying criminal history records or information. Rather, he argued that he "is clearly within his rights under the law to ask for a complete and true copy of all of his institutional records . . . ." It may be that Mr. Barela's claim far exceeds the parameters of the Wyoming Criminal History Records Act. It is unnecessary to answer that question because it is clear that the district court, within Mr. Barela's original criminal case, had no jurisdiction to enforce the Wyoming Criminal History Records Act or any other public records act. Furthermore, Mr. Barela provides no cogent argument or pertinent authority demonstrating jurisdiction.

Subject matter jurisdiction is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong. Fuller v. State,568 P.2d 900, ...

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