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OTTO v. WILLIAMSON

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania


May 16, 2005.

BUCKLEY OTTO, Petitioner
v.
TROY WILLIAMSON, WARDEN, Respondent.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES McCLURE, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Background

Buckley Otto, an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution, White Deer, Pennsylvania (FCI-Allenwood), filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Accompanying the petition is an in forma pauperis application. Named as Respondent is FCI-Allenwood Warden Troy Williamson.

  Petitioner states that he was convicted of four (4) counts of bank robbery following a jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. On June 30, 1983, Otto was sentenced to a twenty (20) year term of incarceration.*fn1 Petitioner acknowledges that he did not pursue a direct appeal. Otto states that he did unsuccessfully seek collateral relief in three (3) actions filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Specifically, two of his § 2255 petitions were denied in 1985 while the third petition was dismissed on August 18, 1989.

  Otto's present petition claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the grounds that: (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury; (2) the evidence presented at trial failed to establish that Petitioner committed a crime. Petitioner indicates that both of his present claims were previously asserted in an application requesting leave to file a second or successive § 2255 petition but were not reviewed on their merits. See Record document no. 1, ¶¶ 14-15. He further maintains that his § 2255 remedy is inadequate or ineffective.

  Discussion

  Habeas corpus petitions brought under § 2241 are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4 ("Preliminary Consideration by the Judge") of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (1977) (applicable to § 2241 petitions under Rule 1(b)). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491 F. Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D. Pa. 1979). Rule 4 provides in pertinent part: "If it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge shall make an order for its summary dismissal and cause the petitioner to be notified." A petition may be dismissed without review of an answer "when the petition is frivolous, or obviously lacking in merit, or where . . . the necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself. . . ." Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 906 (1970). Accord Love v. Butler, 952 F.2d 10, 15 (1st Cir. 1991).

  A federal criminal defendant's sentence is subject to collateral attack in a proceeding before the sentencing court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. E.g., United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 179 (1979). Section 2255 provides, in part, that "[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by motion to the court which sentenced him, or that such court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention" (emphasis added). 28 U.S.C. § 2255; Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974); Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 427 (1962); In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3rd Cir. 1997); In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 (4th Cir 1997); Application of Galante, 437, F.2d 1164, 1165 (3rd Cir. 1971). In his instant action, Otto is clearly challenging the legality of his federal criminal conviction and sentence which occurred in the District of Connecticut.

  In ruling on the issue of inadequate or ineffective, the appellate courts have instructed that a collateral relief motion is inadequate or ineffective only where it is established that some limitation of scope or procedure would prevent the collateral remedy from affording the prisoner a full hearing and adjudication of his claim of wrongful detention. See Galante, 437 F.2d at 1165 (3d Cir. 1971) (quoting United States ex rel. Leguillou v. Davis, 212 F. 2d 681, 684 (3d Cir. 1954)). It has also been established that the burden is on the habeas petitioner to allege or demonstrate inadequacy or ineffectiveness. See id.; Cagle v. Ciccone, 368 F.2d 183, 184 (8th Cir 1966).

  Furthermore, prior unsuccessful collateral relief motions filed in the sentencing court have been held to be insufficient in and of themselves to show that the motion remedy is inadequate and ineffective. Tripati v. Herman, 843 F.2d 1169, 1162 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 982 (1988); Litterio v. Parker, 369 F. 2d 395, 396 (3d Cir. 1966) (per curiam). "It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not a personal inability to utilize it, that is determinative. . . ." Garris v. Lindsay, 794 F.2d 722, 727 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 993 (1986). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that, as to issues cognizable by the sentencing court under § 2255, a § 2255 "supersedes habeas corpus and provides the exclusive remedy." Strollo v. Alldredge, 462 F.2d 1194, 1195 (3d Cir.) (per curiam), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1046 (1972).

  Triestman v. United States, 124 F.3d 361 (2nd Cir. 1997), and Dorsainvil also addressed what circumstances make a collateral relief remedy inadequate and ineffective. The legislative limitations placed on collateral relief proceedings simply do not render the remedy inadequate or ineffective so as to authorize pursuit of a habeas corpus petition in this court. United States v. Brooks, 230 F.3d 643, 647 (3rd Cir. 2000); Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251. "To hold otherwise would simply effect a transfer of forum for the adjudication of successive challenges to the validity of a conviction." Kennemore v. True, Civil No. 98-1175, slip op. at 6. (M.D. Pa. July 28, 1998) (Conaboy, J.).

  Both the Triestman and Dorsainvil courts held that a § 2255 motion was only "inadequate and ineffective" (thus allowing a petitioner to bring a § 2241 habeas corpus action) where the denial of a habeas action would raise serious constitutional issues. Triestman, 124 F.3d at 377; Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 249. The serious constitutional issue was that a change in substantive law rendered the conduct for which petitioner was convicted no longer criminal. Triestman, 124 F.3d at 366; Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251. Thus, these cases set a high bar for what a court will consider a serious constitutional issue sufficient to allow a petitioner to bring a § 2241 petition to challenge a conviction or sentence.

  Petitioner admits that he previously asserted his present claims in a presumably unsuccessful application for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 action. Otto also acknowledges that he filed three (3) prior unsuccessful § 2255 petitions during the 1980's. The Petitioner presently argues that because he was denied his right to trial by jury, he should be allowed to pursue this § 2241 action.

  Otto's present claims do not fall within the narrow exception created by Dorsainvil and Triestman. Specifically, there is no allegation by Petitioner that his claims are based on any newly discovered evidence. Likewise, there is no contention that they are being raised pursuant to any new intervening substantive rule of criminal law which can apply retroactively to cases on collateral review.

  Unlike Dorsainvil, Petitioner's claims are also not premised on any intervening change in substantive law that would negate the criminal nature of his conduct with respect to his federal conviction. Otto has also not presented any facts to show that the denial of his habeas action would raise serious constitutional issues.

  Consequently, since Otto has already asserted his claims in a prior unsuccessful application to file a second or successive § 2255 petition and has not otherwise established that his remedy under § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective under the standards announced in Dorsainvil and Triestman, his petition for writ of habeas corpus will be dismissed without prejudice. Petitioner, if he so chooses, may again reassert his present claims through an application seeking leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion. An appropriate Order will enter.

  IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT:

1. Petitioner's request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted for the sole purpose of the filing of this action.
2. The petition for writ of habeas corpus is dismissed without prejudice.
3. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.
4. There is no basis for the issuance of a Certificate of Appealability.


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