FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CV-17-323]
HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE AFFIRMED
Maalik Muhammad, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Gary L. Sullivan, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
M. GLOVER, JUDGE
Muhummad appeals from a March 16, 2018 order denying him free
copies of files associated with a replevin action (which he
filed May 11, 2017, and the trial court dismissed November
30, 2017) and denying his motion to amend his complaint and
file a supplemental pleading in the dismissed replevin
action. He contends 1) the trial court abused its discretion
in denying his request for a copy of his case file after it
was seized from him by prison authorities, and 2) the trial
court abused its discretion in not allowing him to amend his
complaint to include subsequent incidents related to the
original complaint in replevin that occurred outside the
ninety-day time period referenced in the order but were
relevant to the complaint. We affirm.
is an inmate in the Arkansas Department of Correction and a
self-described jailhouse lawyer. Prison rules limit the
amount of property that can be stored in inmates' cells;
the limit is that which will fit within a provided storage
box under the bed. For some time, prison personnel had
allowed Abdul to exceed those limits; but when the warden
learned Abdul had items that exceeded the allowed storage
space, he instructed they be taken from Abdul's cell. The
items consisted of legal documents for projects Abdul was
working on. Prison rules further provide that if the legal
materials are not related to active litigation or appeals, an
inmate may store the documents for a maximum of forty-five
days but is responsible for disposing of them either by
"passing them off" at visitation or through the
United States Postal Service at his or her expense. An inmate
is allowed to access the stored legal materials by using the
inmate request system.
March 7, 2017, the prison grievance office received a
unit-level-grievance form from Abdul explaining his concern
about the seizure of his documents. On March 30, 2017, the
warden issued his decision, finding the complaint to be
without merit. On March 31, 2017, Abdul pursued an appeal of
the decision, which, on April 13, 2017, was found to be
without merit and denied.
11, 2017, Abdul filed a petition for writ of replevin in the
Jefferson County Circuit Court seeking the return of the
items that had been removed. On June 29, 2017, appellee
Warden Danny Burl filed a motion to dismiss the petition. On
November 30, 2017, the trial court granted the motion based
on failure to state a claim for which relief could be
granted. On December 19, 2017, more than ten days after entry
of the November 30 order of dismissal in the replevin action,
Abdul filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to
Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 60. The motion was never
ruled on by the trial court. No appeal was filed from the
dismissal of the replevin action.
letter to the Jefferson County Circuit Clerk, filed February
8, 2018, Abdul sought only a copy of his court file; he did
not seek an order for prison officials to return the files
taken from his cell. In the letter, he asked the clerk to
advise him if the proper channel was to petition the trial
court and also requested that the letter be file-marked and
placed in his file.
on March 12, 2018, more than ninety days after entry of the
November 30 order dismissing the replevin action, Abdul filed
a motion to file a supplemental pleading and to amend his
complaint in the previously dismissed replevin action. In it,
he basically contended that events had occurred since he
filed his original replevin complaint and his Rule 60 motion
for relief from judgment; he wanted permission to amend his
original complaint and for his motion for reconsideration to
include the subsequent events and to also add a claim for the
tort of conversion.
March 16, 2018, the trial court entered the order from which
Abdul brings this appeal. The substance of the March 16 order
addressed the February 8, 2018 letter request to the circuit
clerk for a copy of Abdul's case file, apparently
treating it as a petition, and Abdul's March 12, 2018
motion to file the supplemental pleading and to amend the
replevin complaint. With respect to the February 8 letter,
the trial court ruled, "Petitioner may obtain copies at
the per-page cost established by law. He is not entitled to a
free copy of the documents." With respect to the March
12 motion to file the supplemental pleading and to amend the
replevin complaint, the trial court ruled, "The motion
is not timely in that more than 90 days have passed since the
dismissal of the case." This appeal followed.
first point of appeal, Abdul contends the trial court abused
its discretion in denying his request for a copy of his case
file at public expense after it was impermissibly seized by
prison authorities. We disagree.
noted in the State's brief, Abdul employs an "abuse
of discretion" standard of review in making his
arguments, but "clear error" is the correct
standard of review. The standard of review for cases in which
the trial court sits as fact-finder is whether the trial
court's findings are clearly erroneous. Jones v.
Centennial Bank, 2018 Ark.App. 337, 553 S.W.3d 151. A
finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence
to support it, the reviewing court, on the entire evidence,
is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake
has been made by the trial court. Id.
basic arguments under this point of appeal are that prison
officials seized his files because they had his Muslim name
on them, and the trial court should have either ordered the
prison staff to return his files or, alternatively, ordered
the court clerk to provide him ...