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Torres v. Martinez

August 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court is the plaintiff's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241. (Doc. 1). Having been fully briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition.


Petitioner Heriberto Torres is currently incarcerated at the Low Security Correctional Institution at Allenwood in White Deer, Pennsylvania ("LSCI Allenwood"). (Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus at ¶ 1, p. 1) (hereinafter "Petition"). Petitioner Torres is serving the remainder of a 120-month sentence for violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), possession of firearms, including a semiautomatic assault weapon, in furtherance of drug trafficking, and 18 U.S.C. § 1952(A)(3), interstate travel in furtherance of drug trafficking. (Id., Ex. B, "Sentence Monitoring Report Sheet"). Petitioner Torres is projected to be released from Bureau of Prisons custody on October 9, 2010. (Id.). The petitioner's placement date in a residential re-entry center ("RRC"), also known as a community corrections center ("CCC"), has been determined by the Bureau of Prisons to be between 5 and 6 months prior to his release date. (Petition at ¶ 7).

Torres files this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pro se, arguing that Bureau of Prisons pre-release policies violate 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), as amended by the Second Chance Act.*fn1 An April 18, 2008 memorandum requires a Warden to obtain written concurrence from the Regional Director before submitting a request to place inmates in an RRC for a period greater than six months. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-7). The petitioner alleges that the Bureau of Prisons categorically denied him the full 12-month placement in an RRC by following the April 14, 2008 Memorandum, which is contrary to the Second Chance Act and "inconsistent" with Strong v. Schultz, 599 F.Supp. 2d 556 (D.N.J.2009). (Petition at ¶¶ 6-9). Petitioner Torres concedes that he has yet to exhaust all of his administrative remedies, but he argues that he would be further prejudiced by time constraints due to his impending transfer to pre-release custody or outright completion of his sentence if he were to exhaust review. (Id. at ¶ 11).


Because this case is brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.").


A pro se pleading is held to less stringent standards than more formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A habeas petition and any supporting submissions filed pro se must be construed liberally and with a measure of tolerance. See Royce v. Hahn, 151 F.3d 116, 118 (3d Cir. 1998); Lewis v. Attorney General, 878 F.2d 714, 721-22 (3d Cir. 1989). However, a federal district court can dismiss a habeas petition if it appears from the face of the petition that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. See Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U.S. 314, 320 (1996); Siers v. Ryan, 773 F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir.1985), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1989). See also 28 U.S.C. §§ 2243, 2255.

Petitioner Torres seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ("Section 2241"). That statute "confers jurisdiction on district courts to issue writs of habeas corpus in response to a petition from a state or federal prisoner who 'is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.'" Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir. 2001). The federal habeas statute also requires that the petitioner be in custody "under the conviction or sentence under attack at the time his petition is filed." Lee v. Stickman, 357 F.3d 338, 342 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-91 (1989)).

Section 2241, unlike other federal habeas statutes, "confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition of a federal prisoner who is challenging not the validity but the execution of his sentence." Coady, 251 F.3d at 485. (quoting 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(a) and (c)(3)). Although the Third Circuit has yet to define clearly the meaning of "execution" in this context, it has cited approvingly holdings from other circuits finding that a Section 2241 motion properly challenges "'such matters as the administration of parole, computation of a prisoner's sentence by prison officials, prison disciplinary actions, prison transfers, type of detention and prison conditions.'" Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 242 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Jimian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 147 (2d Cir. 2001)). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has also found Section 2241 the appropriate means for challenging a decision to exclude an inmate from release to an RRC. See Woodall, 432 F.3d at 243-44.


A. Exhaustion of the Petitioner's Administrative Remedies Regarding His RRC/CCC Placement

Although Section 2241 does not contain a statutory exhaustion requirement, courts in the Third Circuit have consistently required a petitioner to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus. Moscato v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 98 F.3d 757, 760 (3d Cir.1996) (citing Bradshaw v. Carlson, 682 F.2d 1050, 1052 (3d Cir.1981) (per curiam)); e.g., Callwood v. Enos, 230 F.3d 627, 634 (3d Cir. 2000). The Third Circuit requires administrative exhaustion for habeas claims raised under Section 2241 for the following reasons: "(1) allowing the appropriate agency to develop a factual record and apply its expertise facilitates judicial review; (2) permitting agencies to grant the relief requested conserves ...

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