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BROWN v. MENDEZ

October 17, 2001

CHARLES BROWN, PETITIONER,
V.
JAKE MENDEZ, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie, Chief United States District Judge.

M E M O R A N D U M

On April 30, 2001, Charles Brown, an inmate confined at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania ("USP-Allenwood"), brought this habeas corpus proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge the validity of a life sentence imposed on December 8, 1994 by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Brown contends that his sentence is invalid under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), because the jury was not delegated the authority to decide beyond a reasonable doubt whether he was responsible for the distribution of at least 50 grams of cocaine base, the threshold amount upon which to premise a maximum prison term of life. Because Brown has failed to show that the procedure established by Congress in 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for asserting a collateral challenge to the validity of a sentence imposed by a federal court is inadequate or ineffective in the circumstances presented here, his § 2241 habeas corpus petition will be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

On January 27, 1994, a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida returned a one-count indictment against Brown, charging him with unlawful distribution of "a mixture and substance containing a detectible amount of cocaine, in the form of cocaine base, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1)."*fn1 The indictment did not charge a specific amount of cocaine base attributable to Brown's narcotic-trafficking activities. Following a jury verdict of guilty on the indictment, Brown was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. According to Brown, this sentence was based upon the sentencing court's determination that Brown was responsible for the distribution of at least 50 grams of cocaine base.*fn2

Brown's conviction and sentence were affirmed on his direct appeal in an unpublished opinion. United States v. Brown, 100 F.3d 970 (11th Cir. 1996). The Supreme Court denied Brown's petition for a writ of certiorari on February 18, 1997. 519 U.S. 1140 (1997).

On November 26, 1996, Brown moved for a modification of his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. That motion was denied.

On September 18, 1997, Brown filed a motion to "correct sentence pursuant to recent decision rendered by the Eleventh Circuit." On July 20, 1998, he moved to correct his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).*fn3 The motions were considered collectively by the trial court as a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and denied by Order dated May 30, 2000.

Brown then filed an application with the Eleventh Circuit, requesting leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion to raise the following claims:

(1) The government's failure to prove drug amount to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt violated due process; (2) the district court was without jurisdiction to sentence Brown pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) due to deficiencies in the indictment; (3) Brown's prior state drug convictions were used improperly by the sentencing court to enhance his sentence; and (4) the government's failure to allege drug amount in the indictment and prove that amount to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt violated Brown's equal protection rights.*fn4

Brown's claims were based upon Apprendi. By Order filed on March 26, 2001, the Eleventh Circuit denied the application for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion, finding that Brown had failed to make the requisite showing that Apprendi established "`a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court.'"*fn5

On April 30, 2001, Brown turned to this Court for relief by filing a petition under § 2241. Brown's § 2241 petition asserts the identical claims presented to the Eleventh Circuit in his application for leave to file a successive § 2255 motion. By Order entered May 31, 2001, the respondent was directed to answer the habeas corpus petition. The respondent timely answered the petition on June 20, 2001, and Brown filed a traverse on July 5, 2001. This matter is ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

The respondent asserts that Brown cannot challenge the validity of his sentence by filing in the court having jurisdiction over Brown's custodian a § 2241 petition. Instead, argues the respondent, Brown must utilize the procedures established by 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for seeking relief in the sentencing court, and must therefore meet the restrictions for obtaining relief under that congressional grant of collateral review of federal court convictions and sentences.

Indeed, "the usual avenue for federal prisoners seeking to challenge the legality of their confinement" is a § 2255 motion in the sentencing court.*fn6 In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997). As a general rule, a § 2255 motion "supersedes habeas corpus and provides the exclusive remedy" to one in custody pursuant to a federal court conviction. Strollo v. Alldredge, 463 F.2d 1194, 1195 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1046 (1972). "Section 2241 `is not an additional, alternative or supplemental remedy to 28 U.S.C. ยง ...


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