This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
David Crist, Warden of the Minnesota
Filed July 18, 2000
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Mark B. Levinger, Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1100, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for respondent)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Beck, formerly known as David Wayne Vanderbeck, petitioned for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that the state, through respondent David Crist, Warden of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, has subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment by denying him medical care. The district court denied the petition and dismissed the action. We affirm.
Beck is imprisoned at Stillwater following his 1993 conviction for second-degree murder. His habeas petition alleges that the state's failure to treat his Legionnaire's disease subjects him to complications including but not limited to end-stage renal failure and that this amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. He has sought subpoenas and other discovery to substantiate his claim, moved for an independent physical examination, and moved for appointed counsel.
The state acknowledges that Beck does have medical problems, including a bullet lodged near his spine, which affects the reflexes in his left leg, and a hernia. But the state points out that Beck has declined the recommendations made by the state's medical personnel, which include surgery, a truss, and a wheelchair.
State officials deny, however, that Beck has Legionnaire's disease. Although the medical records Beck attached to his petition include a medical progress note signed by C. Ceman, M.D. that includes the impression "Atypical pneumonitis, ie. Legionaires disease" [sic], Dr. Ceman testified by affidavit that Beck does not have Legionnaire's disease, that Dr. Ceman never concluded that Beck has Legionnaire's disease, and that Dr. Ceman never told Beck he had Legionnaire's disease. Instead, according to Dr. Ceman, he told Beck that Beck was suffering from atypical pneumonitis, which is similar to Legionnaire's disease but is not the same disease. Dr. Ceman testified that Beck's atypical pneumonitis could cause him to exhibit some symptoms similar to those of Legionnaire's disease, but that Beck's condition was neither life-threatening nor a serious health condition warranting extraordinary medical care.
In addition to his state court litigation, Beck brought a federal lawsuit based on these allegations. According to the district court, Beck's federal case was dismissed on February 11, 2000.
A writ of habeas corpus is a statutory civil remedy available "to obtain relief from [unlawful] imprisonment or restraint." Minn. Stat. § 589.01 (1998). A writ of habeas corpus may also be used to raise claims involving fundamental constitutional rights and significant restraints on a defendant's liberty or to challenge the conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Kelsey v. State, 283 N.W.2d 892, 895 (Minn. 1979) (habeas may be used to challenge conditions as cruel and unusual punishment); State ex rel. Crosby v. Wood, 265 N.W.2d 638, 639 (Minn. 1978) (habeas is appropriate remedy if petitioner can establish present and continuing mistreatment amounting to cruel and unusual punishment).
The district court's findings of fact in a habeas proceeding are entitled to great weight on appeal. State ex rel Holecek v. Ross, 472 N.W.2d 185, 186 (Minn. App. 1991). Once the facts have been determined, whether the district court erred in denying a petition for habeas corpus is subject to de novo review. State ex rel. Hussman v. Hursh, 253 Minn. 578, 578 n.1, 92 N.W.2d 673, 673 n.1 (1958). The petitioner has the burden of proving that he is being confined in violation of a fundamental constitutional right. Edstrom v. State, 378 N.W.2d 90, 93 (Minn. App. 1985).
In order to make out an Eighth Amendment case of cruel and unusual punishment based on the denial of medical care, Beck must prove that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S. Ct. 285, 291 (1976). The United States Supreme Court has also held that Eighth Amendment liability requires "more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 106 S. Ct. 1078, 1084 (1986).
The district court found that Beck "has had adequate access to medical care." Nothing in the record contradicts this finding, or even suggests that it is wrong. We are thus bound to accept it. See Ross, 472 N.W.2d at 186. Given this finding, Beck cannot make out a prima facie case that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs" or with "more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety." The district court therefore did not err in denying Beck's petition for habeas corpus. Furthermore, in light of that denial, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Beck's discovery motions and motion for appointed counsel.