Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Muhammad v. Burl

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

January 30, 2019

ABDUL MAALIK MUHAMMAD APPELLANT
v.
DANNY BURL, WARDEN, MAXIMUM SECURITY UNIT, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CV-17-323] HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE AFFIRMED

          Abdul Maalik Muhammad, pro se appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Gary L. Sullivan, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          DAVID M. GLOVER, JUDGE

         Abdul 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.

         Abdul 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.

         On 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.

         On May 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.

         In a 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.

         Then, 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.

         On 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.

         For his 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.

         As 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.

         Abdul's 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.