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Bird v. Lampert

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 23, 2019

CHESTER LOYDE BIRD, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
ROBERT O. LAMPERT, in his official capacity as Director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, Appellee (Defendant).

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Catherine R. Rogers, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Chester Loyde Bird, pro se.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Michael J. McGrady, Deputy Attorney General.

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

          Fox, Justice.

         [¶1] Chester L. Bird is serving a sentence of life according to law for crimes he committed in the 1990s. Mr. Bird filed a pro se complaint under the Declaratory Judgment Act, alleging that the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) violated various policies and procedures during disciplinary proceedings brought against him. The district court dismissed Mr. Bird's complaint, and we affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Mr. Bird raises two issues that we reorder and rephrase:

1. Was it proper for the district court to base its dismissal of Mr. Bird's complaint on standing, when the WDOC only raised standing in its reply brief?
2. Do collateral estoppel and res judicata bar Mr. Bird's claims that procedural violations occurred during his disciplinary proceedings?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mr. Bird has been in the custody of the WDOC since 1994. In September 2016, he was convicted of three major conduct violations resulting from his participation in a pornographic video distribution scheme. He was sentenced to 60 days in disciplinary segregation, among other punishments. Mr. Bird filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, naming WDOC warden Michael Pacheco and the Wyoming Attorney General as respondents. He alleged the disciplinary proceedings used to obtain his convictions violated his right to due process of law because "he was arbitrarily denied staff witnesses, the charging officer gave false testimony, there was 'no evidence' to support the guilty finding and [] he received punishments other than a fine." The federal district court granted the respondents' motion for summary judgment, concluding that Mr. Bird had been "provided all the due process to which he was entitled." The Tenth Circuit denied him a certificate of appealability.

         [¶4] Mr. Bird then filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment in state district court against the director of the WDOC, Robert Lampert. He sought a declaration that the WDOC must "adhere to its own rules and regulations which were adopted for the protection of other parties." He argued the WDOC did not follow its own procedures in conducting his disciplinary hearing because: 1) his conduct violation report did not provide sufficient description of physical evidence, did not disclose the names of all staff members involved in the investigation, and was not completed until more than 24 hours after the decision to charge him was made; 2) the hearing officer reviewed a confidential investigation report that Mr. Bird did not have the opportunity to review; and 3) he was denied the opportunity to present witnesses.

         [¶5] Mr. Lampert moved to dismiss Mr. Bird's complaint, arguing that collateral estoppel and res judicata precluded the action because his habeas corpus petition had "previously raised nearly identical allegations." Mr. Bird responded that his complaint did not argue that violations of WDOC policies violated his right to due process, rather it sought a judgment that "the WDOC must adhere to its own policies and procedures which were adopted for the protection of other parties, nothing more, nothing less." In reply Mr. Lampert argued, in addition to the action being precluded, that Mr. Bird lacked ...


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