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Little v. Martinez

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


December 29, 2009

EDWARD M. LITTLE, PETITIONER
v.
RICARDO MARTINEZ, RESPONDENT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mannion, M.J.

JONES, D.J.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION*fn1

I. Procedural Background

On March 16, 2009, Edward M. Little, petitioner, an inmate at FCI- Allenwood, White Deer, Pennsylvania, filed the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241. (Doc. 1). The petitioner also filed a brief in support of his petition. (Doc. 2). Named as respondent was Ricardo Martinez, the Warden at FCI-Allenwood. (Doc. 1).

The habeas petition was served and Respondent filed his Response, with attached exhibits, on April 17, 2009. (Doc. 6 and Exs. 1-7). The petitioner filed a Traverse on April 23, 2009 and a Motion for Summary Judgment on June 26, 2009.*fn2 (Doc. No. 8).

The petitioner's habeas petition is now ripe for disposition.

II. Claim of Habeas Petition

In his petition and supporting brief, the petitioner stated:

[T]he Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") imposed sanctions against Federal prison inmate for his failure to acquiesce in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program ("IFRP"), restitution repayment schedule was not in accordance with law, warranting writ of habeas corpus; sentencing court, although declaring Mandatory Victim's Restitution Act ("MRVA"), restitution 'due during period of imprisonment,' had no established specific schedule of payments to be collected during incarceration; and BOP lacked authority to substitute its own schedule.

(Docs. 1, 2). Specifically, it appears that the petitioner claims that the BOP had no authority to collect his $200.00 Special Assessment,*fn3 under §3664 and that only the Court may collect or determine the amount of his payments. The petitioner also claims that only the sentencing court had authority to set a schedule of payments for federal inmates during the period of incarceration and that this authority cannot be delegated to the BOP. (Docs. 1, 2).

The petitioner seeks relief in the form of a "removal of all BOP imposed fee or IFRP*fn4 collections" against him. He asks that no sanctions by the BOP be imposed and that we institute "a legal, permanent bar from the BOP reinstalling any collections of any type, or sanctions." (Doc. 1). He asks for "immediate imposition under §3664, that the BOP must remove all imposed fee collections on inmates that do not contain an express, direct Court Order signed by a Magistrate Judge, directly ordering the collection and the imposed schedule of collection thereof, as designated by law, be imposed and forever barred from reimposition on any inmate, by the BOP." (Doc. 2).

The respondent claims that federal habeas relief is not an appropriate remedy because the petitioner's claims do not concern the fact or the duration of his confinement in prison. (Doc. 6 at 3). The respondent also claims that even if the petitioner's case was allowed to proceed, "the petition should still be dismissed since the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has already found the provisions of the IFRP to be constitutional."*fn5 (Doc. 6, at 4).

For the reasons stated below, the court agrees with the Petitioner that his claim is properly brought in a petition for writ of habeas corpus because it challenges the execution of his sentence. However, after substantive review, the petition should be dismissed as moot.

III. Discussion

The petitioner challenges the BOP's authority to collect payments under §3664 claiming that only the Court may collect payments or determine the amount of those collections. The petitioner also claims that only the sentencing court has authority to set a schedule of payments for federal inmates during the period of incarceration and that this authority cannot be delegated to the BOP. (Doc. 1 and 2)

As a general rule, a petition under § 2241 is properly brought where the petitioner is seeking to challenge the carrying out, or the execution of, his sentence (e.g., the calculation of good time credits, the running of the sentence, the calculation of the ending date, etc.) and not the sentence as imposed. Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484 (1973); Gomori v. Arnold, 533 F.2d 871, 875 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 851 (1976) ("Furthermore, the United States Courts of Appeals have consistently held that a challenge to a sentence as executed by the prison and parole authorities may be made by petition for a writ of habeas corpus [i.e., a Section 2241 petition], whereas a challenge to the sentence as imposed must be made under 28 U.S.C. §2255."); Thomas v. Miner, 232 Fed.Appx. 207, 208 (3d Cir. 2007) ("In addition, federal prisoners may proceed under §2241 when their challenge is directed to the execution, as opposed to the validity, of their sentence.").

Here, the petitioner's challenge goes directly to the execution of his sentence, namely whether the BOP has authority to set the terms of his Special Assessment payments while he is incarcerated. These claims fall squarely within those properly raised in a petition for habeas corpus under §2241. U.S. v. Walker, 149 Fed.Appx. 55, 57 (3d. Cir. 2005) (citing Coady v. Vaugh, 251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 2001); Mujahid v. Crabtree, 999 F.Supp. 1398, 1401 (D.Or.1998), aff'd, 172 F.3d 57 (9th Cir. 1999)). See Costigan v. Yost, 2008 WL 5062365 at *1 (3d Cir. Dec. 2, 2008) ("Because Costigan's challenge goes directly to execution of the sentence (i.e., whether the BOP has authority to set the terms of the payment of the special assessment), the claim falls squarely within those properly raised in a petition for habeas corpus under §2241.")(citing Coady v. Vaugh, 251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 2001). See also United States v. Hakin, Slip Copy, 2008 WL 5378269 (E.D. Pa. December 18, 2009) (treating a challenge to the BOP's authority as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241); U.S. v. Wynn, 328 Fed.Appx. 826 (3d. Cir. 2009)(stating that a challenge to the manner in which the BOP is encouraging a prisoner to pay money he owes is a challenge to the execution of his sentence and may be properly brought in a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241 or a civil rights action against prison officials challenging the conditions of his confinement.); Goodwin v. Martinez, Slip Copy, 2009 WL 3833920, Civil No. 09-474, M.D. Pa.(November 16, 2009 Memorandum and Order in which Court granted Petitioner's reconsideration motion and re-opened his case since the Court found that Petitioner was challenging the legality of his federal sentence imposed by the District Court.) In sum, it appears that the Third Circuit has specifically ruled that this type of matter may appropriately be brought by a habeas corpus petition pursuant to §2241.

Next, the respondent argues that the petitioner's claim should be dismissed as moot. (Doc. 6 at 5). In Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1 (1998), the Court stated that "[t]he parties must continue to have a personal stake in the outcome of the lawsuit. This means that, throughout the litigation, the Plaintiff must have suffered, or be threatened with, an actual injury traceable to the Defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Id. (Citations omitted).

In Nkemakolam v. Decker, 2005 WL 2715905, *2 (M.D. Pa.), the Court stated:

The case or controversy requirement of Article III, §2 of the United States Constitution subsists through all stages of federal judicial proceedings. Parties must continue to have a "'personal stake in the outcome' of the lawsuit." Lewis v. Continental BankCorp., 494 U.S. 472, 477-78, 110 S.Ct. 1249, 108 L.Ed.2d 400 (1990); Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401, 95 S.Ct. 2330, 45 L.Ed.2d 272 (1975). In other words, throughout the course of the action, the aggrieved party must suffer or be threatened with actual injury caused by the defendant. Lewis, 494 U.S. at 477.The adjudicatory power of a federal court depends upon "the continuing existence of a live and acute controversy." Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 459, 94 S.Ct. 1209, 39 L.Ed.2d 505 (1974) (emphasis in original). "The rule in federal cases is that an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Id. at n. 10 (citations omitted). "Past exposure to illegal conduct is insufficient to sustain a present case or controversy ... if unaccompanied by continuing, present adverse effects." Rosenberg v. Meese, 622 F.Supp. 1451, 1462 (S.D.N.Y.1985) (citing O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96, 94 S.Ct. 669, 38 L.Ed.2d 674 (1974)); see also Gaeta v. Gerlinski, Civil No. 3:CV-02-465, slip op. at p. 2 (M.D.Pa. May 17, 2002) (Vanaskie, C.J.).

In the instant matter, the petitioner is no longer participating in the IFRP since he does not have a balance for special assessments, court-ordered restitution, fines, or other court costs. (Doc. 6, Ex. 2, Att. 2). While the petitioner was ordered to pay a felony assessment in the amount of $200.00 in connection with his criminal conviction, he began to pay the assessment in December of 2005 and he completed payments in January 2007, more than two years prior to the filing of the instant petition. (Doc. 6, Ex. 2, Att. 1 and 2).

Since the petitioner is not presently a participant in the IFRP, nor was he at the time his petition was filed, his petition is moot and should be dismissed.

IV. Recommendation.

Based upon the foregoing, IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT:

1) The Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 1) be dismissed as moot; and,

2) The Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 8) be deemed withdrawn.

MALACHY E. MANNION United States Magistrate Judge


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