This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hollis J. Larson, petitioner
Commissioner of Corrections, State of Minnesota
Filed October 8, 1996
Washington County District Court
File No. C7-95-4577
Hollis J. Larson, No. 114153, Minnesota Correctional Facility, P.O.
Box 10, 5329 Osgood Avenue, Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, 55082 (pro se).
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Minnesota Attorney General, Marsha Eldot Devine,
Assistant Attorney General, 1100 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul,
Minnesota 55101-2128 (for Respondent).
Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district court's dismissal of his petition for writ
of mandamus or habeas corpus, arguing that respondent computed appellant's good
time improperly and without due process. We affirm.
The Minnesota Correctional Facility at Oak Park Heights (MCF-OPH)
twice found appellant Hollis J. Larson guilty of refusing to accept work
assignments, in violation of inmate disciplinary rules. Based on these
refusals to work, MCF-OPH placed appellant on disciplinary idle status (DIS)
for a total of 45 days, resulting in a loss of 15 days of good time toward
appellant's early release from prison. Appellant petitioned the district court
for a writ of mandamus compelling respondent Frank Wood, Commissioner of
Corrections, to recompute appellant's good time, or, in the alternative, for a
writ of habeas corpus. The district court dismissed appellant's petition with
prejudice. Appellant argues on appeal that the district court erred in finding
that respondent computed appellant's good time properly and without denying
appellant due process.
D E C I S I O N
As a preliminary matter, we reject appellant's argument that this
court must disregard respondent's brief to this court as untimely. It does
appear that respondent filed its brief one day after expiration of the 33-day
period permitted by applicable statutes. See Minn. R. Civ. App.
131.01 (requiring respondent to serve and file a brief within 30 days after
service of appellant's brief); Minn. R. Civ. P. 6.05 (permitting service of
responsive pleadings 3 days later than otherwise required where opposing party
serves its pleadings by mail). However, Minn. R. Civ. App. 102 authorizes this
court to suspend the requirements of the rules "[i]n the interest of expediting
decision upon any matter before it * * * ." Boom v. Boom, 361
N.W.2d 34, 36 (Minn. 1985), set forth four factors for a court to consider on a
motion to dismiss for noncompliance with a technical, nonjurisdictional matter:
(1) prejudice to the moving party due to the noncompliance; (2) justifiable
cause for noncompliance shown by the nonmoving party: (3) cure of the defect;
and (4) the merits of the underlying appeal. Examination of the
Boom factors relevant here persuades us that we may properly
disregard the technical noncompliance present here to consider respondent's
brief. Appellant suffers no prejudice due to our consideration of respondent's
brief, and respondent cured the defect in question by filing its brief one day
after expiration of the prescribed period.
I. Standard of Review.
The construction of a statute is a question of law and thus
fully reviewable by an appellate court. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public
Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985). A
reviewing court will not reverse a trial court's denial of a petition for
mandamus relief unless "there is no evidence reasonably tending to sustain the
trial court's findings." Popp v. County of Winona, 430 N.W.2d
19, 22 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Nov. 23, 1988).
"The findings of a trial court considering a petition for writ of habeas corpus
are entitled to great weight," State ex rel. Holecek v. Ross,
472 N.W.2d 185, 186 (Minn. App. 1991), and will therefore be "sustained if they
are reasonably supported by the evidence." Edstrom v. State, 378
N.W.2d 90, 93 (Minn. App. 1985), aff'd, 386 N.W.2d 708 (Minn.
II. Computation of Good Time.
Appellant argues that respondent improperly computed
appellant's good time by denying appellant good time during the period of his
DIS. Minn. Stat. § 244.04, subd. 1, para. 1 (1994) provides in pertinent
the term of imprisonment of any inmate * * * shall be reduced in duration by
one day for each two days during which the inmate violates none of the
disciplinary offense rules promulgated by the commissioner. The reduction
shall accrue to the period of supervised release to be served by the inmate * *
Minn. Stat. § 244.04 Subd. 1, para. 2, further provides that
if an inmate * * * violates a disciplinary offense rule promulgated by the
commissioner * * * the inmate may be required to serve an appropriate portion
of the term of imprisonment after the violation without earning good time.
See, e.g., Case v. Pung, 413 N.W.2d 261, 263 (Minn. App. 1987)
(affirming district court finding that prison officials had properly denied
appellant good time under section 244.04 during his punitive segregation
sentence) review denied (Minn. Nov. 24, 1987). Read together,
paragraphs 1 and 2 of section 244.04 bar an inmate from earning good time equal
to one-third of the period of his or her DIS.
The Commissioner of Corrections has promulgated Inmate Discipline Regulation
20, which provides:
No inmate shall refuse to report to his/her assigned duty area, refuse to
fulfill or fail to perform the basic requirements of an assignment.
Minnesota Correctional Facilities Inmate Disciplinary Regulations, Rule 20
(1993). Rule 20 also sets forth specific penalties for its violation,
including the imposition of DIS. Id.
In this case, appellant violated rule 20 by refusing to perform two work
assignments. As a result of these violations, MCF-OPH placed appellant on DIS
for a total of 45 days, during which appellant failed to earn 15 days' good
time. Because section 244.04 authorizes respondent to suspend inmates' ability
to earn good time as punishment for rules violations and decline to credit such
inmates with good time equal to one-third of their DIS period, MCF-OPH properly
denied appellant 15 days' good time during the 45-day period of his DIS.
Accordingly, the district court properly found that respondent correctly
computed appellant's failure to earn good time.
III. Due Process.
Appellant argues that MCF-OPH denied him due process in
suspending his ability to earn good time during his DIS. "[T]he right to
procedural due process arises only when constitutionally protected liberty or
property interests are implicated." Mortenson v. State, 446
N.W.2d 674, 677 (Minn. App. 1989). Thus, in reviewing a due process claim, the
court must first determine whether the aggrieved party has a constitutionally
protected interest. Schwandt Sanitation of Paynesville v. City of
Paynesville, 423 N.W.2d 59, 66 (Minn. App. 1988). Protected liberty
interests may arise from either the Due Process Clause itself or the laws of
the states. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 471-72, 103 S. Ct.
864, 871 (1983). The United States Constitution does not guarantee an inmate
the right to earn good time credit for good behavior while in prison.
Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2975
(1974). Minnesota courts have declined to recognize a protected liberty
interest in earning good time. See, e.g., Seifert v. Erickson,
420 N.W.2d 917, 919 (Minn. App. 1988) (finding no due process violation in
challenge to application of chapter 244, on the ground that chapter 244 does
not take away earned good time), review denied (Minn. May 18,
Appellant's due process claim fails. We note in passing that even if we did
find that appellant had a protected interest in earning good time, his due
process rights would not be implicated here. No factual dispute as to
appellant's rule violations exists to implicate due process protections.
See Seifert, 420 N.W.2d at 920 (finding appellant not entitled to
evidentiary hearing where petition failed to establish a factual dispute).
We conclude the trial court properly denied appellant's petition for writ of
mandamus or habeas corpus.