This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).







Randy Lee Peterson, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,




Filed September 11, 2007

Toussaint, Chief Judge


Rice County District Court

File No. 66-CV-06-948



Randy Lee Peterson, 3102 Sixth Avenue North, Apt. 14, Anoka, MN 55303 (pro se appellant)


Joan Fabian, Commissioner of Corrections, Krista J. Guinn, 1450 Energy Park Drive, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN  55108 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Randall, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

            Appellant Randy Lee Peterson, a prisoner incarcerated at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, challenges a district court order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus after he was disciplined in accordance with correctional facility policies for refusing to enter a chemical dependency treatment program that was mandated by prison regulations.  Appellant claims that a disciplinary hearing officer violated his due process rights by refusing to allow him to call three witnesses at his formal disciplinary hearing.  He also claims that a procedural error occurred in the district court because he was unable to submit a written reply to the return to the petition of the writ submitted by Joan Fabian, Commissioner of Corrections.  Because we conclude that the hearing officer’s evidentiary ruling did not violate appellant’s due process rights and because there is no provision that allows for submission of a reply in habeas corpus proceedings, we affirm.


            A writ of habeas corpus is a statutory remedy that allows a prison inmate to petition for “relief from imprisonment or restraint.”  Minn. Stat. § 589.01 (2004).  “The scope of inquiry in habeas corpus proceedings is limited to constitutional issues, jurisdictional challenges, claims that confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and claims that confinement violates applicable statutes.”  Loyd v. Fabian, 682 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (Minn. Oct. 19, 2004).  Appellate courts give great weight to the district court’s findings in considering a petition for habeas corpus and will uphold those findings if they are reasonably supported by the evidence.  Nw. v. LaFleur, 583 N.W.2d 589, 591 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Nov. 17, 1998).  Questions of law, however, are reviewed de novo.  State ex rel. McMaster v. Benson, 495 N.W.2d 613, 614 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Mar. 11, 1993).     

            Appellant claims that the hearing officer’s denial of his request to call three witnesses at his disciplinary hearing violated his due process rights.  Respondent has broad statutory authority to “prescribe reasonable conditions and rules for [inmates’] employment, conduct, instruction, and discipline.”  Minn. Stat. § 241.01, subd. 3a(b) (2004).  When an inmate is accused of a prison violation, the inmate is entitled to limited procedural due process in the ensuing disciplinary proceeding, including the right to present documentary evidence and call witnesses, if it does not jeopardize “institutional safety or correctional goals.”  Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2979 (1974); Hrbek v. Nix, 12 F.3d 777, 780 (8th Cir. 1993).  But such due process rights do not entitle an inmate to present evidence that would be excluded in a criminal trial.  See Minn. R. Evid. 402 (“evidence which is not relevant is not admissible”); see also Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 485, 115 S. Ct. 2293, 2301 (1995) (noting that “lawful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system”). 

            Here, the hearing officer found that any evidence that could be offered by the three defense witnesses, two of whom were inmates and a third who was unidentified other than by name, was irrelevant.  Appellant’s infraction consisted of refusing mandated treatment, and he admitted to refusing mandated treatment; appellant did not indicate to either the hearing officer or to the district court the substance of these witnesses’ testimony.  Under these circumstances, appellant has failed to demonstrate that his witnesses’ proffered testimony was relevant, and the district court properly concluded that appellant’s due process rights were not implicated by the hearing officer’s decision to exclude these witnesses’ testimony.  See State v. Harris, 713 N.W.2d 844, 848-49 (Minn. 2006) (noting that appellant must generally make offer of proof demonstrating substance of evidence excluded as irrelevant by district court to preserve issue for appeal); State v. Hawkins, 511 N.W.2d 9, 12-13 (Minn. 1994) (affirming district court’s exclusion of proposed testimony of defense witness as irrelevant).   

            Appellant further argues that this case should be remanded to the district court because he was not allowed to reply to respondent’s return to his petition for the writ.  As support for this claim, he relies on Minn. R. Civ. P. 15.01, which allows a party to amend a pleading once at any time before a responsive pleading is served and within 20 days after initial service of the party’s pleading.  Under the civil rules, however, habeas corpus proceedings are “special proceedings” to which the rules do not apply if they are “inconsistent or in conflict.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 81.01, App. A.

            The portion of the habeas corpus statute that provides for written submissions in habeas corpus proceedings, Minn. Stat. § 589.12 (2004), states that “[i]mmediately after the return of the writ, the judge . . . shall examine the facts set forth in the return, the cause of the imprisonment or restraint, and whether the cause was upon commitment for a criminal charge or not.”  This statute requires an inmate to submit a petition for a writ and the commissioner of corrections to submit a return to the petition, followed by “immediate” action by the district court; the statute does not provide for an inmate reply to the return of the writ.

            Because Minn. Stat. § 589.12 applies to habeas corpus proceedings and sets forth a specific mechanism for making written submissions to the district court, that statute controls in this case.  Thus, we conclude that no “procedural error” occurred because appellant was unable to reply to respondent’s return of the writ.[1] 


[1] In addition, this issue was not raised to the district court, and an appellate court will generally decline to determine an issue, even where it has constitutional implications, if it was not addressed in the district court and is raised for the first time on appeal.  State v. Sorenson, 441 N.W.2d 455, 457 (Minn. 1989).