This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Terry Carlson, Warden MCF-Moose Lake,
Filed June 21, 2005
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Jennifer A. Service, Assistant Attorney General, 1100 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, 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
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Appellant Randy Scott Bendzula challenges the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Bendzula argues that decision of the commissioner of corrections to deny his application to participate in the Challenge Incarceration Program violates state law, the commissioner unfairly applied the policy mandating that an inmate is not allowed to participate in the program for a second time, and the commissioner is contractually obligated to place him in the program. We affirm.
In March 2003, Bendzula was sentenced to an 84-month commitment to the commissioner of corrections for his conviction of first-degree controlled substance crime. In August 2004, Bendzula petitioned the district court for a writ of habeas corpus under Minn. Stat. § 589.01 (2004), alleging that his liberty was being impermissibly restrained because he was denied a lesser custody status — participation in the Challenge Incarceration Program — in contravention of state law. The district court denied Bendzula's petition.
A writ of habeas corpus is a
statutory civil remedy whereby "[a] person imprisoned or otherwise
restrained of liberty, except persons committed or detained by virtue of the
final judgment of a competent tribunal . . . [may] obtain relief from
[unlawful] imprisonment or restraint."
Here, Bendzula claims that his liberty is being impermissibly restrained because the penitentiary officials failed to follow Minn. Stat. § 244.17 (2002), which provides that the
commissioner may select offenders who meet the eligibility requirements of subdivisions 2 and 3 to participate in a challenge incarceration program described in sections 244.171 and 244.172 for all or part of the offender's sentence if the offender agrees to participate in the program and signs a written contract with the commissioner agreeing to comply with the program's requirements.
A state statute creates a liberty
interest for a prisoner when the statute places substantive limitations on the
exercise of penitentiary officials' discretion.
McMaster, 476 N.W.2d at 672. In determining whether a statute creates a
liberty interest, this court looks to the plain language of the statute to
ascertain the legislature intent. See Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2004)
(stating "object of all interpretation and construction of laws is to
ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature"); Burkstrand
v. Burkstrand, 632 N.W.2d 206, 210 (
Because we find nothing in section Minn. Stat. § 244.17 or chapter 244 indicating that the legislature intended "may" to be anything other than permissive, we conclude the legislature did not intend to place any substantive limitations on the commissioner of corrections in Minn. Stat. § 244.17. Therefore, Minn. Stat. § 244.17 does not create a liberty interest, and the decision to deny Bendzula the chance to participate in the Challenge Incarceration Program is not a matter appropriate for habeas corpus relief.
We also note the present case is
distinguishable from the type of statutory violation that the supreme court concluded
— under its inherent authority over the judicial system — to be reviewable
under a habeas corpus claim in Kelsey v.
State, 283 N.W.2d 892, 894-95 (Minn. 1979).
In Kelsey, the statutory
violations arose from the parole officials' decisions in denying parole, which "must
be conducted in accordance with due process."
Bendzula also argues that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because the commissioner of corrections is contractually bound to place him in the Challenge Incarceration Program. Courts may not grant habeas corpus relief for claims based on contractual obligations that do not allege illegality based on a statutory or constitutional violation, raise a jurisdictional challenge, claim the confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, or argue the petitioner is entitled to immediate release. Loyd, 682 N.W.2d at 690.