IN COURT OF APPEALS
George Andrew Vaughn, 161792,
Dennis Wayne Cobb, 171959,
Sheryl Ramstad Hvass,
Commissioner of Corrections, et al.,
Filed June 6, 2000
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Washington County District Court
File No: C2995130
George Andrew Vaughn, No. 161792, Minnesota Correctional Facility, 1000 Lakeshore Drive, Moose Lake, MN 55767-9449 (Pro se appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Kari Josephine Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1100, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellant George Andrew Vaughn, and fellow inmate, Dennis Wayne Cobb, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging respondents violated the Genocide Convention Implementation (Proxmire) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1091 (a)(4), (5) (1998), and the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. More specifically, appellant complained that respondents illegally and unconstitutionally adopted and enforced a prison policy prohibiting conjugal visitation and the opportunity to procreate with African American women during incarceration. In addition to monetary relief, appellant sought injunctive relief in the form of a conjugal-visitation program available to all inmates over 21 years of age.
Concluding appellant’s claim lacked legal merit because there is no private right of action to enforce the Proxmire Act, the district court denied the motion for a temporary injunction and dismissed the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim with prejudice. Vaughn challenges the district court order dismissing his claim with prejudice as frivolous, arguing he is entitled to pursue a private civil cause of action to enforce his right to procreate under the Proxmire Act. Because appellant failed to present a legally cognizable claim and the prison policy is constitutional, we affirm.
Appellant contends respondents violated the Proxmire Act by adopting a policy prohibiting conjugal visitation to prevent him from procreating with African American women. On appeal from dismissal for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, the only question for the reviewing court is to determine whether the complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for relief. Elzie v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 298 N.W.2d 29, 32 (Minn. 1980). A reviewing court is not required to defer to a trial court’s decision on a purely legal issue. Frost–Benco Elec. Ass’n v. Minnesota Pub. Util. Comm’n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984).
The Proxmire Act explicitly states that nothing in the Act shall be construed “as creating any substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any proceeding.” 18 U.S.C. § 1092 (1998); see Manybeads v. United States, 730 F.Supp. 1515, 1521 (D. Ariz. 1989) (explaining that even if the Act were “otherwise applicable,” 18 U.S.C. § 1092 does not create a private cause of action). In addition, Minnesota inmates do not have the right to conjugal visits during incarceration. See Wilkinson v. McManus, 298 Minn. 541, 541, 214 N.W.2d 671, 672 (1974) (authorizing reasonable restrictions on inmate’s conduct that neither shock the conscience of the community nor appear fundamentally unfair). Appellant does not have a private cause of action under 18 U.S.C. § 1092.
Furthermore, even if appellant could pursue a private cause of action to enforce the Proxmire Act, he failed to allege a violation of the Act. A violation of the Proxmire Act requires a showing of “specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” 18 U.S.C. § 1091(a). While appellant contends respondents deliberately and intentionally imposed measures to prevent African American inmates from procreating with members of their own ethnic group, appellant cannot show that the conjugal visitation policy was specifically and purposefully established to prevent African American births. Because the policy is equally applicable to all inmates, appellant cannot meet the specific intent requirement of a claim under the Proxmire Act. The district court properly dismissed the claim for failure to state a legally cognizable claim.
B. Constitutional Claims
While appellant’s brief does not specifically address constitutional issues, the standard of review requires this court to determine whether the complaint set forth a legally cognizable claim. Elzie, 298 N.W.2d at 32. Appellant’s complaint alleged the conjugal visitation policy infringed on his fundamental right to procreate in violation of sections 2, 7, and 16 of Article I of the Minnesota Constitution and the 1st, 4th, 5th, 9th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution. The right to procreate has been consistently recognized as a fundamental right. Carey v. Population Servs. Int’l, 431 U.S. 678, 685, 97 S. Ct. 2010, 2016 (1977); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S. Ct. 1208, 1212 (1972); Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 536, 62 S. Ct. 1110, 1111 (1942). A prison inmate retains all constitutional rights that are consistent with the “legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system.” Goodwin v. Turner, 908 F.2d 1395, 1398 (8th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted).
The standard for determining the validity of a prison regulation allegedly infringing on an inmate’s constitutional rights is whether the regulation is “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” Id. at 1398 (citing Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 223, 110 S. Ct. 1028, 1037 (1990) (quotation omitted)). This standard of review applies to all allegedly infringed constitutional rights, including fundamental rights. Id. at 1398-99. While appellant’s incarceration unavoidably curtails his freedom to engage in sexual relations with African American women, the conjugal-visitation policy reflects a reasonable attempt to maintain security and avoid spending significant resources administering and executing a conjugal visitation program. In addition, the policy prohibiting conjugal visits applies equally to all inmates, regardless of race, creed, or national origin. Because the conjugal visitation policy directly addresses legitimate penological objectives and applies uniformly to all inmates, the prison’s policy banning conjugal visits does not violate the Minnesota or United States Constitution.
Moreover, appellant only retains constitutional rights consistent with his status as a prison inmate. Id. at 1398. The United States Supreme Court has held that the constitution does not guarantee inmates visitation rights from any person. See Kentucky Dep’t of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460-61, 109 S. Ct. 1904, 1908-09 (1989); Block v. Rutherford, 468 U.S. 576, 585-89, 104 S. Ct. 3227, 3232-34 (1984). Also, Minnesota inmates are not guaranteed conjugal visitation during incarceration. See Wilkinson, 298 Minn. at 541, 214 N.W.2d at 672 (holding denial of conjugal visitation not cruel and unusual punishment). While appellant contends the policy deprives him of his right to procreate, not his right to conjugal visitation, the right of procreation is inconsistent with his status as a prisoner because conjugal visitation is not constitutionally guaranteed. Therefore, appellant cannot complain that depriving him of conjugal visitation violated his constitutional right to procreate.
Appellant and Cobb also sought a temporary injunction to prevent respondents from changing their housing or retaliating against them for filing the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights claim. While the district court’s denial of injunctive relief was based on the court’s conclusion that appellant did not have a private right of action to enforce the Proxmire Act, appellant does not challenge the district court’s denial of his request for injunctive relief. Therefore, the issue is waived and this court need not address it on appeal.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.