from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third
Judicial District, Seward, Carl Bauman, Judge. Superior Court
No. 3 SW-15-00003 CI
Appearances Michael Lee Rae, pro se, Anchorage, Appellant.
Matthias Cicotte, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and
Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Maassen, Bolger, and Carney,
Justices. [Winfree, Justice, not participating.]
prisoner filed a complaint against the Department of
Corrections alleging that he was held illegally and demanding
his release. The superior court dismissed the complaint for
failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
The prisoner appeals. Because we agree that the complaint
failed to state a cognizable claim, we affirm the dismissal.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Rae is a prisoner in the custody of Alaska's Department
of Corrections (DOC). In January 2015 he filed a complaint
(labeled a "petition") in the superior court
alleging that DOC lacked the constitutional authority to hold
him. In an attached motion for expedited consideration he
asserted that he had been "subjected to numerous forms
of cruel and unusual punishments" including solitary
confinement and impediments to his ability to conduct legal
2015 the superior court sua sponte dismissed the complaint
with prejudice because Rae failed to "advance any
cognizable or discernable claim." Rae filed both a
motion for reconsideration and a notice of his intent to seek
a default, following up with a 75-page application for a
default judgment. The superior court denied reconsideration,
concluding that "Rae's main point of contention is
that [DOC] has no legal authority to hold him or exist at
all" and that the "argument is without merit and
the relief sought is not available to Rae."
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
review a motion to dismiss de novo, construing the complaint
liberally and accepting as true all factual
allegations." We "exercise our independent judgment
in interpreting court rules, " and we review questions of
constitutional law and statutory interpretation de
novo. But we "review the adequacy of the
superior court's assistance to a pro se litigant for
abuse of discretion."
The Superior Court Did Not Err When It Dismissed Rae's
Complaint For Failure To State A Claim.
"complaint should not be dismissed 'unless it
appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim' that would entitle him to
some form of relief, even if the plaintiff requests a type of
relief he is not entitled to obtain." This stringent
standard for dismissal was met in this case.
complaint posed five "question[s] of law." First,
Rae asked whether DOC is covered by the Alaska Administrative
Procedure Act, to which he provided the answer:
"No." Second, he asked the court to clarify whether
DOC's creation by executive order was constitutional.
Third, he asked whether DOC's creation by executive order
violated the separation of powers doctrine, to which he
answered "yes." Fourth, Rae asserted that all the
laws and regulations authorizing DOC's custody over him
were "ex post facto." His last question appears to
be an amalgam of the first four: He concludes that his
detention by DOC violates the constitution, the separation of
powers doctrine, and generally "the rights provided by
'we' the people." The answers to none of these
"questions of law" depended on the resolution of
disputed issues of fact. And the superior court could, and
did, properly determine that the answers to them would not
provide Rae the relief he wanted: his immediate release from
argues on appeal that AS 33.30.051 and other statutory
provisions regarding prisoners in DOC custody are
unconstitutional "ex post facto"
laws. This argument fails for at least two
reasons. First, the statutes Rae cites do not define any
criminal conduct,  and second, they were enacted well before
Rae committed the offenses for which he was
imprisoned. Rae also relies on AS 09.50.310, allowing
the attorney general to bring an action against a person or
persons for unlawfully usurping a public office. But the
statute cannot reasonably be construed to authorize a suit
against the existence of an entire state agency; besides, it
does not purport to grant a private cause of action.
no merit in any of Rae's other arguments questioning the
validity of DOC's existence. Rae cites the fact that DOC
is not covered by the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act,
but he does not explain why having different procedural rules
makes DOC an illegal entity. He points to the
criminal-administration provisions of the Territorial Organic
Act and Statehood Act and claims that they preclude later
changes in the law like the creation of DOC, and he argues
that article I, section 12 of the Alaska Constitution lays
out a specific plan for "criminal administration"
that also conflicts with DOC s creation. But article I,
section 12 provides broad goals for criminal administration;
it does not ...