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Ruesga v State of Iowa

Case No. 3-1133 (IA Ct. App., Feb. 19, 2014)

Jose Ruesga is an inmate at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison. In 2012 he was charged with violating an institutional rule. In a prison disciplinary proceeding, Ruesga was found to have violated the rule and received fifteen days of disciplinary detention as the only sanction imposed. His appeal and supplemental appeal to the warden were denied. Ruesga then filed an application for postconviction relief with the district court. In his application Ruesga raised as grounds for relief claims that the “report” against him had been brought in retaliation for him “giving a statement against an officer being investigated,” and that the conduct he had been accused of did not in fact constitute a violation of the institutional rule in question. His request for relief included a request for “dismissal of report and expunge[ment] from file.”

The State filed a motion to dismiss, pointing out that the only sanction imposed had been fifteen days of disciplinary detention and Ruesga had not lost any “earned time.” The State asserted that the sanction thus involved no substantial deprivation of a liberty or property interest and that under such circumstances Ruesga’s application did not state a claim cognizable in an action for postconviction relief.

On July 5, 2012, Ruesga filed a response to the State’s motion. He alleged he was serving a life sentence and argued that his having been found to have violated an institutional rule would “impact my application for commutation.” Ruesga cited the June 25, 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama , 567 U.S. ___, ___, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2464, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407, 424 (2012), for the proposition that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for persons who were under the age of eighteen at the time of their crimes constituted unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. He asserted he had been incarcerated for twenty years, and had not had but was entitled to “a hearing to consider mitigating circumstances” concerning his “possibility of rehabilitation versus life imprisonment” and a possible commutation of his sentence. Ruesga argued that the erroneous finding he had violated an institutional rule would have an impact at such a hearing. Although Ruesga does not expressly so state, we read these statements in his response as an assertion that he was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole for a crime committed while he was under eighteen years of age.
 

 

Judge(s): John Miller
Jurisdiction: Iowa Court of Appeals
Related Categories: Criminal Justice
 
Trial Court Judge(s)
John Linn

 
Court of Appeals Judge(s)
Thomas Bower
Richard Doyle
John Miller

 
Appellant Lawyer(s) Appellant Law Firm(s)
Jose Ruesgo Pro se

 
Appellee Lawyer(s) Appellee Law Firm(s)
Forrest Guddall Office of the Iowa Attorney General
Thomas Miller Office of the Iowa Attorney General

 

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appeal from the iowa district court for lee (north) county, john g. linn, applicant-appellant, developed adult,” and holding that in resentencing pearson such “lessened as a preliminary matter, we note that in his brief ruesga asserts that his discipline imposed, although not resulting in forfeiture of a sentence reduction rule. tabor, 519 n.w.2d at 379. the district court denied postconviction relief. proceeding is entirely collateral to ruesga’s criminal case. at any resentencing any relief may be granted] is properly granted only if a plaintiff’s violate the rule. the response states that the warden “disagrees with [ruesga’s] iowa code “section 901.5 vests the district court with broad discretion in the sentence of another state, it is also somewhat similar in that it involves relief, holding that the only discipline imposed, a reprimand, met neither of the 10 431. it noted that hawaii law did not require the parole board to deny parole the ‘mitigating qualities of youth,’” and that mandatory life-without-parole the issue was not “cited in his application for postconviction relief.” the state conduct.”); state v. pearson, 836 n.w.2d 88, 97 (iowa 2013) (stating, in vacating some small role but are not determinative do not implicate a liberty interest. ruesga appeals from the district court order dismissing his application for 836 n.w.2d 107, 121 (iowa 2013) (“in light of our increased understanding of the *senior judge assigned by order pursuant to iowa code section 602.9206 (2013). error must of necessity at least in part go to this further contention. erroneous prison discipline will affect his sentence because it will have an impact (“if the court’s ruling indicates that the court considered the issue and necessarily state a claim upon which any relief may be granted is for correction of errors of two described situations. id. disciplinary detention—will necessarily impact his application for resentencing in first situation identified in tabor—“when ‘[t]he person’s reduction of sentence finding of a rule violation was erroneous. would affect the result of any resentencing in such a manner as to “inevitably considered by doyle, p.j., bower, j., and miller, s.j.* postconviction relief may be cognizable . . . do not include the collateral respondent-appellee. this well-established principle to the particular facts of this case. the juvenile’s character”). administrative review, resulting in a determination the high misconduct charge dismiss, the district court was required to accept as fact that ruesga was serving lessened because the juvenile is cognitively underdeveloped relative to a fully- requirement if it informs the defendant of the incident giving rise to ruesga has apparently been incarcerated for twenty years and the to the same standard of culpability as adults in criminal sentencing,” and “[t]he observed before an inmate may be deprived of either of these rights. see, e.g., create a liberty interest in any credits an inmate has accrued. sanford v. imprisonment without the possibility of parole—an unconstitutional sentence application. at his resentencing hearing—in the administrative proceeding. it further asserts circumstances ruesga’s application did not state a claim cognizable in an action our review of a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to the supreme court reversed the decision of the ninth circuit. id. at 488, 115 s. applicant’s liberty [or] property interest.” id. the court affirmed the denial of exists no conceivable set of facts entitling the non-moving party to rees v. city of shenandoah, 682 n.w.2d 77, 79 (iowa 2004). “a motion to court granted certiorari. id. at 476-77, 115 s. ct. at 2297, 132 l. ed. 2d at 425. that ruesga has failed to preserve error on the issue he presents. 4 of the due process clause,” and held that conner therefore did not have a wealth of characteristics and circumstances attendant to it.” id. at ___, 132 s. ct. liberty interest. we therefore affirm the district court’s dismissal of ruesga’s life,’” and “when a restraint ‘will inevitably affect the duration of [the inmate’s] v. lynch, 113 f.3d 875, 876 (8th cir. 1997). mandatory life imprisonment without parole for persons who were under the age while other factors may be considered the strong emphasis is to be placed on the we conclude that under our notice pleading, in ruling on the motion to determination that his conduct did not violate the institutional rule in question, the erroneous finding he had violated an institutional rule would have an impact sentencing.” id. at ____, 132 s. ct. at 2464, 183 l. ed. 2d at 418. the court v. null, 836 n.w.2d 41, 58 (iowa 2013) (stating the supreme court has a the time of the crime for which he was sentenced to a mandatory term of life interests of prisoners are implicated, “when a restraint imposes ‘atypical and affect the balance is simply too attenuated to invoke the procedural guarantees erroneously found to have violated an institutional rule. sentence.’” see reilly v. iowa dist. ct., 783 n.w.2d 490, 494-95 (iowa 2010) significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison 183 l. ed. 2d at 430. he contends that the finding he violated an institutional . . . even though misconduct is by regulation a relevant consideration.” 515 u.s. ruesga cited the june 25, 2012 decision in miller v. alabama, 567 u.s. ___, ___, 2 at ___, 132 s. ct. at 2469, 183 l. ed. 2d at 424. citing and quoting its previous sanford, 601 n.w.2d at 464 (citing and quoting cases holding that an inmate has ________________________________________________________________ relief concerning action taken by a prison disciplinary committee, the prisoner miller, and the iowa cases cited above, thus strongly suggest that in 822.2(1)(f) (2011); tabor v. state, 519 n.w.2d 378, 380 (iowa 1994); and ragan application. this were true, ruesga has arguably failed to preserve error, as the issue he we view the second instance identified in sandin—“when a restraint ‘will “indeed meet the criteria of the charge.” we therefore conclude that ruesga did ed. 2d 418, 430-31. cites and quotes miller v. iowa district court, 603 n.w.2d 86, 88 (iowa 1999), we view the second situation identified in tabor, a situation in which “the a juvenile’s lengthy sentence and remanding, that “a juvenile’s culpability is ruesga appeals. he asserts he was less than eighteen years of age at 7 “[d]isagree[s] with the decision” and states that the warden does not “accept motion on july 5, 2012.” it thus seems clear that the court was aware of and dismiss admits the well-pleaded facts in the petition, but not the conclusions.” charged with violating, resulting in an erroneous finding that he had violated the warden praises his demonstrated progress. the misconduct and disciplinary “mitigating circumstances.” the state’s claim that ruesga has not preserved the first instance described in sandin—“when a restraint imposes atypical and pursuant to [statutes allowing an inmate to earn time toward early release] has granted.” see iowa r. civ. p. 1.421(1)(f). in the court of appeals of iowa impact at such a hearing. this contention implicitly relies on the underlying pursuant to [statutes allowing an inmate to earn time toward early release] has circumstances” concerning his “possibility of rehabilitation versus life deprivation as might create a liberty interest under this test. id. we similarly been unlawfully forfeited.’” see sandin, 515 u.s. at 484, 487, 115 s. ct. at 2300, about seven months later the united states supreme court decided ct. at 2296-97, 132 l. ed. 2d at 432. it identified two instances in which liberty and had not had but was entitled to “a hearing to consider mitigating pointed out its previous insistence “that a sentencer had the ability to consider at 487, 115 s. ct. at 2302, 132 l. ed. 2d at 431-32. this analysis may on july 5, 2012, ruesga filed a response to the state’s motion. he administrative process. we therefore do not agree with the state’s contention on the outcome of his resentencing hearing. serving, resulting in a substantial deprivation of a liberty interest. id. our focus at any resentencing hearing will be the “mitigating qualities of youth,” and unusual punishment. he asserted he had been incarcerated for twenty years, culpability is a mitigating factor that the district court must recognize and his anticipated resentencing hearing. otherwise stated, in the terms expressed district court’s grant of summary judgment, the supreme court held that conner’s 13 been unlawfully forfeited.’” id. citing davis v. state, 345 n.w.2d 97, 99 (iowa imposed had been fifteen days of disciplinary detention and ruesga had not lost 3 state of iowa, however, must contain factual allegations that give the defendant at 2302, 132 l. ed. 2d at 431-32. the court noted that parole decisions rest on rule in question. the question that remains concerns ruesga’s conclusion that a fifteen days of disciplinary detention as the only sanction imposed. his appeal 9 (1993), the court identified the first as “when ‘[t]he persons’ reduction of sentence novo); webster cnty. bd. of supervisors v. flattery, 268 n.w.2d 869, 872 (iowa relevant to an allegation of aviolation of a constitutional right is reviewed de contention, expressly made in his application for postconviction relief, that the boundaries); state v. dailey, 774 n.w.2d 316, 319 (iowa ct. app. 2009) (stating protected liberty interest that would entitle him to procedural protections such as ruesga’s application for postconviction relief, praises “the positive progress iowa’s statutes providing for earned time credits toward early release liberty interest subject to due process protection under this test. postconviction relief. affirmed. his anticipated resentencing hearing, and thus “inevitably affect the duration of hearing” as defined in that case. see miller, 567 u.s. at ___, 132 s. ct. at 2474, sandin v. conner, 515 u.s. 472, 115 s. ct. 2293, 132 l. ed. 2d 418 (1995). sentencing or resentencing someone for a crime committed while a juvenile, ‘children are constitutionally different from adults,’ they ordinarily cannot be held in miller v. alabama, the supreme court held that a sentence of or modifying a sentence, factors such as a record of discipline that may play mandatory term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole for a crime consider”); null, 836 n.w.2d at 74 (stating, in vacating a juvenile’s lengthy requested relief in the administrative process.” the next question is how to apply if the administrative process had been resolved in ruesga’s favor with a committee denying his request to present witnesses at the disciplinary hearing. ruesga would have had no grounds on which to file an application for and supplemental appeal to the warden were denied. ruesga then filed an statements in his response as an assertion that he was sentenced to a application for postconviction relief but made clear in his response to the state’s resolved in that party’s failure. application for postconviction relief with the district court. in his application 11 you’ve demonstrated during your incarceration.” it acknowledges that ruesga motion to dismiss. see lamasters v. state, 821 n.w.2d 856, 862 (iowa 2012) jose ruesgo, fort madison, pro se appellant. situation did not “present a case where the state’s action will inevitably affect the present a case in which the state’s action in disciplining him would inevitably petition on its face shows no right of recovery under any state of judge. considered ruesga’s resistance in sustaining the state’s motion. see id. at 864 (iowa 2009). minimal requirements of procedural due process must therefore be manternach, 601 n.w.2d 360, 364 (iowa 1999). a liberty interest also exists in imprisonment” and a possible commutation of his sentence. ruesga argued that (noting that when a district court fails to rule on an issue properly raised by a at 2467, 183 l. ed. 2d at 422. mandatory life imprisonment without parole for a crime committed under the age to dismiss, ruesga cited tabor, 519 n.w.2d at 378. in that case tabor, an that might occur, the district court would have broad discretion. the primary included a request for “dismissal of report and expunge[ment] from file.” that his one incident of prison misconduct will necessarily affect the outcome of that the prison officials erroneously interpreted and applied the rule he was the warden’s response to ruesga’s supplemental appeal, similarly attached to relief. under notice pleading, nearly every case will survive a review of a certiorari action is for correction of errors at law, the evidence a rule violation implicates a liberty interest because it will have an impact on the and conjecture and is thus too attenuated to give rise to a due-process-protected conner, an inmate serving thirty years to life in a hawaii prison, was charged sense of responsibility, vulnerability to peer pressure, and the less fixed nature of the state filed a motion to dismiss, pointing out that the only sanction cases that described numerous “gaps between juveniles and adults,” the court circumstances attending that age. a motion to dismiss [for failure to state a claim upon which inmate of the iowa state penitentiary, was disciplined for violating an institutional was unsupported and the expungement of his records as to that charge. id. at in sandin, the supreme court held that inmate conner’s situation did not the district court sustained the state’s motion to dismiss. it noted that rule results in a substantial deprivation of a liberty interest because it will have an ed. 2d at 430-31. for the reasons that follow, we cannot reach such a for postconviction relief. affect either earned credits or the right to accrue credits. we are left with the 132 s. ct. 2455, 2464, 183 l. ed. 2d 407, 424 (2012), for the proposition that the right to accrue such credits. holm v. iowa dist. ct., 767 n.w.2d 409, 417-18 reduction under the statutes, otherwise results in a substantial deprivation of the our district court has broad discretion in sentencing, provided any sentences preclude sentencers “from taking account of an offender’s age and the with “high misconduct” and was also charged with “low moderate misconduct” for can be forfeited). the discipline imposed in ruesga’s case did not, however, question of whether ruesga’s conclusion that his discipline—fifteen days of 8 a constitutionally protected liberty interest in earned credits, and that minimum mandatory life imprisonment without possibility of parole for a crime committed thomas j. miller, attorney general, and forrest guddall, assistant 476, 115 s. ct. at 2296, 132 l. ed. 2d at 424-25. conner subsequently sued, applicant’s liberty . . . interest,” 519 n.w.2d at 380, as essentially the same as outcome of the resentencing hearing to which he is entitled to consider ruled on it, even if the court’s reasoning is ‘incomplete or sparse,’ the issue has in sandin, will that discipline “inevitably affect the duration of [ruesga’s] ruesga’s age and attending characteristics and circumstances at the time of his id. at 476, 115 s. ct. at 2296, 132 l. ed. 2d at 425. violations,” “disagree[s] with the decision,” and contends his conduct did not given the foregoing facts and law, can we accept ruesga’s conclusion improper location. 519 n.w.2d at 380. he asserted that the discipline would presents on appeal. it points out he did not raise his present contention—that his that under these facts and the applicable law, the chance ruesga’s discipline he was guilty of the charged misconduct, and conner was disciplined by the 2302, 132 l. ed. 2d at 430-31; tabor, 519 n.w.2d at 380. sentence.” see sandin, 515 u.s. at 484, 487, 115 s. ct. at 2300, 2302, 132 l. [ruesga’s] contention” that ruesga’s conduct did not violate the rule in question. exhaust administrative remedies concerning his underlying claim that he was jose ruesga, the state asserts that ruesga has failed to preserve error on the issue he four hours of disciplinary segregation for each of the two other misconducts. id. “mitigating circumstances” and the possible commutation of his sentence), and reasonably be viewed as indicating that when discretion is involved in imposing constitutional difference arises from a juvenile’s lack of maturity, underdeveloped to deny parole in the face of a misconduct record or to grant parole in its absence constitute a violation of the institutional rule in question. his request for relief universal unabridged dictionary 936 (deluxe 2nd ed. 1979). in tabor, an claiming his rights to due process of law had been violated by the disciplinary sentence imposed is within constitutional boundaries and statutory limits. state 1978) (same). affirmed. the state’s pre-answer motion to dismiss identifies the question it raises “inevitable” means “incapable of being avoided or evaded,” webster’s state v. iowa dist. ct., 801 n.w.2d 513, 517 (iowa 2011) (holding that although prison disciplinary proceedings. id. at 380. citing iowa code section 822.2(6) ruesga goes somewhat further than merely contending his conduct did not 12 disciplinary detention did not result in any substantial deprivation of a liberty or the asserted right to present witnesses at the disciplinary hearing. in that it relates to an opportunity for reduction of an iowa sentence rather than requirements of procedural due process must be observed before earned time ruesga had lost no “earned time.” it concluded that the sanction of fifteen days at 475-76, 115 s. ct. at 2296, 132 l. ed. 2d at 424. conner sought facts. a motion to dismiss is properly granted only when there crime. as noted above, “inevitable” means “certain to happen.” we conclude substantial deprivation of a liberty or property interest and that under such jose ruesga is an inmate at the iowa state penitentiary at fort madison. 15 of eighteen (and was thus entitled to a resentencing hearing to consider district court expressly mentioned that ruesga had “filed a response to the consequences of sanctions imposed by iowa authorities on prisoner’s sentences under miller v. alabama—and he is thus entitled to a “mitigating circumstances consequences of discipline. in other states.” id. although ruesga’s request for relief is somewhat different, affect the duration of his sentence as state law did not “require[ ] the parole board in 2012 he was charged with violating an institutional rule. in a prison and a part of ruesga’s application, indicates that ruesga “[d]en[ies] the one to dismiss for “[f]ailure to state a claim upon which any relief may be age of the offender at the time of the crime and the characteristics and property interest. in support of its conclusion the court cited iowa code section investigated,” and that the conduct he had been accused of did not in fact because of the misconduct or grant parole in its absence. id. at 487, 115 s. ct. particular discipline imposed, although not resulting in forfeiture of a sentence brought in retaliation for him “giving a statement against an officer being many considerations, stated that “[t]he chance that a finding of misconduct will motion to dismiss. the petition need not allege ultimate facts that liberty interest is implicated because the finding will necessarily have an impact 6 july 5, 2012 resistance to the state’s motion to dismiss was “never ruled on.” if id. on appeal our supreme court identified two situations in which postconviction while a juvenile violates the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment [his] sentence”? in sandin, in reversing the ninth circuit and thus reinstating the reject the idea that ruesga’s fifteen days of disciplinary detention created a under those statutes, otherwise results in a substantial deprivation of the as whether ruesga’s application for postconviction relief “states a claim when the the warden’s response to ruesga’s appeal, attached to and a part of allegation in the light most favorable to the plaintiff with doubts life.” 515 u.s. at 487, 115 s. ct. at 2302, 132 l. ed. 2d at 430-31. sandin been preserved.”). in his application for postconviction relief, however, and on appeal, a de novo review of the evidence relevant to the constitutional issue. see, e.g., recent iowa cases are to the same effect. see, e.g., state v. ragland, inevitably affect the duration of [the inmate’s] sentence’”—as encompassing the judgment, the court of appeals for the ninth circuit reversed, and the supreme disciplinary proceeding, ruesga was found to have violated the rule and received contained in the eighth amendment to the united states constitution. 567 u.s. must first exhaust his administrative remedies by raising the basis for the committed while he was under eighteen years of age. violate the institutional rule. he contends that the allegedly erroneous finding of a meaningful way for the attributes of juveniles that are distinct from adult impact on his resentencing hearing was not ripe until the conclusion of the duration of his sentence.” 515 u.s. at 487, 115 s. ct. at 2302, 132 l. ed. 2d at and cites other cases, for the proposition that “[b]efore seeking postconviction 5 affect the duration of [ruesga’s] sentence” is based on nothing but speculation rejected the idea that thirty days of disciplinary segregation presented such a raises on appeal is essentially the same as an issue not expressly stated in his decision making of youths, the sentencing process must be tailored to account in any “earned time.” the state asserted that the sanction thus involved no new collegiate dictionary 584 (1980), or “certain to happen” webster’s new affect his right to discretionary reduction of a wyoming sentence that he was also in sandin, the u.s. district court granted the prison officials summary sentence and remanding, that “the district court must recognize that because respond to the petition. a petition complies with the fair notice of eighteen at the time of their crimes constituted unconstitutional cruel and (citing and quoting sandin, 515 u.s. at 484, 487, 115 s. ct. 2300, 2302, 132 l. attorney general, for appellee. have violated an institutional rule would “impact my application for commutation.” party, the party who raised the issue must file a motion requesting a ruling in 14 2295-96, 132 l. ed. 2d at 424. an institutional adjustment committee determined hypothetical “collateral consequences” of discipline rather than direct order to preserve error for appeal). we do note, however, that in its order the supreme court affirmed the denial of relief, holding that “deprivations for which erroneous administrative finding he violated an institutional rule will have an stated that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of imposition of thirty days of disciplinary segregation for the high misconduct and filed february 19, 2014 conclusion under any set of facts provable under the facts alleged in ruesga’s postconviction relief raising this contention. otherwise stated, his claim that the no. 3-1133 / 12-1361 alleged he was serving a life sentence and argued that his having been found to const. amend. v; iowa const. art. i, § 9. in his resistance to the state’s motion violating various institutional rules. sandin, 515 u.s. at 474-75, 115 s. ct. at miller, s.j. no person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law. u.s. significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison fair notice of the claim asserted so the defendant can adequately at such a hearing. although ruesga does not expressly so state, we read these law. id. at 7. however, when violation of a constitutional right is raised, we make imposing sentences within statutory limits”). only punishment is only 15 days of disciplinary detention.” the motion is thus relief procedures established in iowa code chapter 822 may be utilized to review interpretation” of the rule, and the warden concludes ruesga’s conduct did support each element of the cause of action. the petition, vs. kingsway cathedral v. dep’t of transp., 711 n.w.2d 6, 8 (iowa 2006). ruesga raised as grounds for relief claims that the “report” against him had been 1984), the court identified the second as the situation in which “the particular the claim and of the claim’s general nature. we view the plaintiff’s inmate at the iowa state penitentiary received a reprimand for being at an constitutional obligation to ensure sentences remain within constitutional


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