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Griffin v. United States

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


August 7, 2008

MACARTHUR GRIFFIN, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT .

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

(JUDGE VANASKIE)

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

MacArthur Griffin, an inmate confined at the Marianna Federal Correctional Institute in Marianna, Florida, filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 14, 2008. Griffin seeks his immediate release and monetary compensation from several federal officials involved in his criminal prosecution. Griffin claims the Honorable Edwin Kosik and the various Assistant United States Attorneys involved in his criminal proceedings lacked jurisdiction to indict, convict and sentence him. (Dkt. Entry 1, Petition.) Petitioner specifically disavows the filing of his petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 or 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Griffin contends that requiring him to pursue either a § 2255 or § 2241 violates the Constitution's provision against the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. (Id. at R. 2.)*fn1

For the reasons that follow, the Court will summarily dismiss the Petition.*fn2

II. Background

Griffin, a Career Offender, entered a guilty plea to the distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack) and was sentenced to serve a 110 month term of imprisonment and three years supervised release. See USA v. Griffin, 3:04-CR-00274 (M.D. Pa.)(Kosik, J.)(Dkt. Entry 38, Order of Judgment.) He was sentenced on May 17, 2005.*fn3 (Id., Dkt. Entry 38, Order of Judgment.)

On April 8, 2008, Griffin filed a motion to reduce his sentence based on the December 2007 amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which reduced the guidelines offense level for certain drug distribution and conspiracy offenses involving cocaine base. (Id. at Dkt. Entry 43.) On May 5, 2008, the sentencing Court denied Griffin's motion, holding that Griffin did not qualify for a sentence reduction as he was sentenced as a career offender. (Id. at Dkt. Entry 49, Order Regarding Motion for Sentence Reduction Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).)

Griffin's present habeas corpus petition is specifically filed pursuant to Art. I, §9, cl. 2 of the Federal Constitution, the Suspension Clause. He suggests he is entitled to immediate release as he is illegally confined because the trial court lacked jurisdiction over him. Griffin premises his argument on the fact that the involved "state and federal public officials who are jews and freemason's" are actually "international agents of the Crown's, British Accreditation Registry (B.A.R.)" and not the United States. (Id.) In addition to his immediate release, Griffin seeks monetary damages.

III. Discussion

Contrary to Griffin's position, neither 28 U.S.C. § 2255 nor 28 U.S.C. § 2241 constitutes a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in violation of the Suspension Clause of the United States Constitution. Article I, § 9, cl. 2 of the United States Constitution provides that "[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." In United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205 (1952), the Supreme Court discussed the impact of 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on the rights of federal prisoners to challenge the legality of their confinement and whether it constituted a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The Hayman Court stressed that the purpose and effect of the statute was not to restrict access to the writ but to make post-conviction proceedings more efficient by minimizing "the difficulties encountered in habeas hearings by affording the same right in another and more convenient forum." Id. at 219. A motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is a substitute for habeas corpus. The Supreme Court recently confirmed that § 2255 provides a remedy in the sentencing court that is "exactly commensurate" with the pre-existing federal habeas corpus remedy. Boumediene v. Bush, 128 S.Ct. 2229, 2264 (2008)(citing Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 427, and n. 5 (1962)). Hayman also held that "where the Section 2255 procedure is shown to be 'inadequate or ineffective', the Section provides that the habeas corpus remedy shall remain open to afford the necessary hearing." Hayman, 342 U.S. at 223. Thus, the Hayman court definitively held that the substitution of a collateral remedy which is neither inadequate nor ineffective to test the legality of a person's detention does not constitute a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. See also Swain v. Pressley, 430 U.S. 372, 381 (1977).

"It is ... well established that requiring a federal prisoner to pursue post-conviction relief in the trial court under § 2255, rather than in a habeas proceeding under § 2241, where that remedy is adequate and effective does not constitute a suspension of the writ." United States v. Brooks, 245 F.3d 291, 292 n. 2 (3d Cir. 2001)(citing United States v. Anselmi, 207 F.2d 312, 314 (3d Cir. 1953)). Clearly Griffin's argument that § 2255 and/or § 2241 violate the Suspension Clause is without merit.

A challenge to a federal criminal defendant's conviction or sentence is most properly brought as a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed in the district court in the district where the petitioner was convicted.*fn4 Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002). "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.1972).

Although a federal convict may challenge his conviction or sentence under § 2241 if a section 2255 motion is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention," 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ¶ 5, this safety-valve provision must be construed strictly. In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251 (3d Cir. 1997). "It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative." Cradle v. United States, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002). "Section 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the sentencing court does not grant relief, the one-year statute of limitations has expired, or the petitioner is unable to meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of the amended § 2255." Id. at 539. Rather, the habeas exception recognized in § 2255 was merely to make sure that petitioners had a fair opportunity to seek collateral relief, not to enable them to evade procedural requirements. Id. It is important to note that the "safety valve" clause of § 2255 is extremely narrow and provides a remedy only in unusual circumstances, such as where an intervening change in law decriminalized the conduct for which the petitioner was convicted. See Okereke, 307 F.3d at 120 (citing In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245 (3d Cir.1997)). Thus, if a petitioner improperly challenges a federal conviction or sentence under § 2241, the petition must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Application of Galante, 437 F.2d 1164, 1165 (3d Cir. 1971).

Application of the above principles compels the conclusion that Griffin's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus should be dismissed because his claim that the sentencing court lacked jurisdiction to indict, convict and/or sentence him is cognizable only under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, not under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. However, as Griffin specifically disavows his reliance on either 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or § 2241 in bringing his present habeas corpus petition, the Court is without jurisdiction to consider his claims.*fn5

For these reasons, the Court will dismiss the instant habeas petition. An appropriate Order follows.

ORDER

NOW, THIS 7th DAY OF AUGUST, 2008, for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:

1. The Petitioner's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. Entry 4) is GRANTED.

2. The petition for writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. Entry 1) is DISMISSED.

3. The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.

Thomas I. Vanaskie United States District Judge


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