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Wyoming Court of Appeals Permits Delay in Prison Allowing Public Records Access

Jonmichael Guy, a Wyoming Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoner sent Steve Hargett, warden of the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institute, an internal inmate communication form requesting permission to view the DOC's Policy and Procedure # 1.215, Code of Ethics. Hargett denied permission as the policy had not been preapproved for review by prisoners.

Guy sent a second request to Hargett, explaining that the request was being made under the Wyoming Public Records Act (WPRA). He sent a similar request to a Deputy Director of the DOC. Hargett again denied the request, but Lindly replied that the DOC had undertaken further review of the policy and determined it was a public record. Guy was allowed to view the policy about four weeks after filing the original request.

After filing prison grievances requesting Hargett be fined for the delay in releasing the record and trained on the WPRA, Guy filed a petition for declaratory judgment in state court seeking a declaration that his WPRA rights were violated and that DOC policies were subject to the WPRA. He also sought an injunction requiring the DOC to revise its policies to conform with the WPRA, requiring DOC staff to abide by WPRA timelines and personally pay fines if those guidelines are violated. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, citing lack of subject matter jurisdiction, which the court granted. Guy appealed.

The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed. It noted that the WPRA provided the jurisdiction and the only relief Guy could request. Since neither the WRPA nor the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA), Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-37-1.02 to 1-37-115, had provisions for declaring the DOC's policies public records or dealing with future WPRA requests or requiring the DOC to change its policies, Guy was not entitled to the relief he sought.

The court also did not err in failing to rule on Guy's motion to amend the petition to show it was brought under the UDJA, as that act did not extend jurisdiction. Further, the WPRA has an allowance for government officials to review documents prior to their release to the public and, instead of seeking the remedies in court set forth in the WPRA when he did not receive access to the requested documents within the statutory seven days, Guy chose to resolve the issue using the prison's internal grievance procedure. Therefore, the judgment of the lower court was upheld. See: Guy v. Lampert, Wyo., No. S-15-0106 (decided November 23, 2015).

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Related legal case

Guy v. Lampert