This opinion will be unpublished and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
Ronaldo S. Ligons,
David Crist, et al.,
Washington County District Court
File No. C6-03-2804
Ronaldo S. Ligons,
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Kari Jo Ferguson, Assistant
Attorney General, 1800
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court’s dismissal of his claim for a declaratory judgment that the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ requirement that he limit his personal possessions to two footlockers violated his constitutional rights. Because we find that appellant failed to demonstrate an injury allowing him to bring a claim that his constitutional right to access to the courts was violated and because we find that the correctional facility staff did not illegally retaliate against appellant by enforcing an existing rule limiting personal belongings to two footlockers, we affirm.
The district court
ordered summary judgment, dismissing appellant Ronaldo Ligons’s claims that the
policy of limiting his personal property to two footlockers violates his
constitutional rights. When reviewing an
order for summary judgment, an appellate court asks: (1) whether there are any
genuine issues of material fact; and (2) whether the district court erred in
its application of the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2,
The first issue is
whether the district court erred by determining that appellant had failed to establish
a prima facie case of injury based on the requirement that he limit his
personal possessions to two footlockers.
Prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate, effective, and
meaningful access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430
September 2002, appellant, a prisoner at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in
On several occasions, including when he filed his appeal, appellant made motions to this court to stay the appeal or to grant an extension of the time to file his brief because he did not have access to his files related to the case and because he had a case pending in the federal courts addressing the denial of his access to the courts. This court extended the time for briefing twice, but refused to stay the proceedings, stating that appellant had not requested that Professor Erlinder return his files and appellant could pursue administrative remedies for the return of his files. Finally, in April 2003, after appellant failed to file a brief by the second extended deadline and had made a motion to dismiss the appeal or stay the proceedings pending the outcome of his federal case, this court granted the motion to dismiss the appeal. This court noted that appellant had not complied with its deadline for filing his brief and appeared unwilling to pursue his appeal. Appellant has not claimed that he made any actual attempt to have his files sent back to him.
Kristian v. State, a prisoner claimed
that the two-footlocker policy violated his constitutional right of access to
the courts. 541 N.W.2d 623, 627 (
Goff v. Nix, the court considered the
case of two jailhouse lawyers who claimed that prison policies regarding the
transfer of prisoners had impaired their own and their clients’ access to the
courts. 113 F.3d 887, 890-91 (8th Cir.
1997). The court first held that the
other prisoners were not prejudiced by the transfer of appellants because there
was no showing that the prisoners were unable to find other jailhouse lawyers
or find other avenues of access to the court.
argues that he was injured by not being able to file a brief in the appellate
proceedings in Ligons v. McComb
because he did not have access to his files regarding that case after they had
been shipped out. The permanent
confiscation of a prisoner’s legal files that impairs his ability to defend
himself at trial constitutes a sufficient injury to present a valid claim for
the infringement of the constitutional right of access to the courts.
extended appellant’s briefing deadlines and gave him time to request the
materials that he needed for his appeal.
If appellant had attempted to regain possession of the necessary files
and had not been able to gain access to them in time to effectively litigate
his case, an injury would have occurred.
In addition, because appellant has not indicated any specific files that
he needed for his appeal, he has not shown any injury that resulted from his
lack of access to the files. The
difficulties that appellant faced in getting access to his files were a
surmountable obstacle to litigating effectively rather than a hindrance in
bringing a claim. See Lewis, 518
The next issue is whether the enforcement of the requirement that appellant place his personal property in two footlockers was illegal retaliation for appellant’s efforts to bring legal claims.
may not punish an inmate for exerting his legal right to file a lawsuit. Goff v.
Dailey, 991 F.2d 1437, 1440 (8th Cir. 1993). However, when the discipline that a prisoner
claims was retaliatory was imposed for an actual violation of a prison rule or
regulation, the prisoner’s claim of retaliation fails. Goff v.
Based on a Minnesota Department of Corrections’ directive, prisoners are only allowed to have permissible personal property that fits into two state-issued footlockers. Inmates are required to be in compliance with this policy at all times. In both September 2002 and March 2003, appellant was required to limit his personal property to two footlockers. On both of these occasions, appellant’s property that did not fit into the two footlockers was shipped to an address that appellant provided. Appellant does not claim that prison rules allowed him to possess more than two footlockers of personal property or that this rule was not uniformly enforced. Because appellant was only required to comply with an already existing rule, his claim that the enforcement of this rule was an illegal retaliatory action fails. See Orebaugh, 910 F.2d at 528.