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Essell v. Scism

April 21, 2010

SAMGODSON ESSELL, PETITIONER
v.
WILLIAM SCISM, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McCLURE, Jr. United States District Judge

(Judge McClure)

MEMORANDUM

Petitioner Samgodson Essell ("Petitioner" or "Essell"), an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood Low Security Correctional Institution ("LSCI Allenwood") in White Deer, Pennsylvania, initiated the above action pro se by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus ("petition") under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Rec. Doc. No. 1.)

By Order dated February 18, 2010, service of the petition was directed, and Respondent was directed to file a response within twenty-one (21) days. (Rec. Doc. No. 4.) On March 11, 2010, Respondent filed a response (Rec. Doc. No. 7), supporting exhibits (Rec. Doc. No. 7-2), and supporting authority (Rec. Doc. No. 7-3). Following a request for an extension of time, which was granted, on April 7, 2010, Petitioner filed a reply brief. (Rec. Doc. No. 12.) Accordingly, the petition is fully briefed and ripe for review. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed.

I. Factual Background

In 1991, Essell was sentenced by the United States District Court for the Central District of California to 360 months imprisonment for his role in a conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances. (See Rec. Doc. No. 7-2 at 21, Ex. C, Criminal Minutes and Order.) In the response to the petition, Respondent provides the following background on subsequent court proceedings based on a search of electronic court dockets:

On April 25, 1997, Essell filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or amend his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. SeeC.D. Ca. Docket No. 2:97-cv-0262 (Ex. B) at 1. The district court denied Essell's 2255 motion on July 6, 1998. See id. The district court denied a petition for certificate of [appealability] on March 29, 1999. See id. at 2. Essell appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, at Docket No. 99-56008. See id. at 2. The appellate court denied Essell's request for certificate of appealability on March 28, 2000. See id.

On May 22, 2009, Essell filed a motion for relief from a final judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5). See C.D. Ca. Docket No. 2:09-cv-03659 (Ex. 2) at 1. The district court denied this motion on July 8, 2009. See id.

Essell subsequently filed a 'Motion to Certify Notice of Appeal Timely Nunc Pro Tunc,' which the district court denied on September 18, 2009. See id. at 2. In denying this motion, the court noted that by that date, Essell had 'made several attempts to challenge his sentence,' including a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence, a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582 to modify his sentence, a Petition for Writ of Audita Querela and a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60 for relief from judgment. See Order (Ex. C) at 1. 'All of those efforts sought to have the Court resentence him to time served as a result of a change in Application Note 12 to § 2D1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Court has denied Essell's efforts to obtain relief from the sentence imposed and none of Essell's appeals have been successful.' Id. (Rec. Doc. No. 7 at 2-3.)

In the instant § 2241 petition, Essell asserts that his immediate release from prison is warranted based upon a series of violations of his right to due process. (See Rec. Doc. No. 1 at 1, 9.) He claims that he was entitled to a reduction of his sentence from thirty (30) years to ten (10) years pursuant to an amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines enacted in 1995, entitled Amendment 518, which he alleges was a retroactive amendment. (See id. at 2.) Essell provides a detailed recitation of his efforts to obtain a reduction of his sentence. (See id. at 2-6.) He alleges that the Clerk of Court of the United States District Court for the Central District of California failed to respond to his inquiries about the status of his motion to reduce his sentence. (See id.) Essell claims that the Clerk of Court's failure to timely notify him of the Court's decision denying his motion led to the dismissal of his subsequent appeal as untimely. (See id.) He asserts that the Clerk of Court interfered with his right of access to the courts and therefore also violated his right to due process. (See id.)

II. Discussion

A. Challenge to Sentence

Respondent argues that, to the extent Essell seeks to challenge his 1991 federal sentence in this Court based upon a 1995 amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, he cannot pursue such a challenge through a § 2241 habeas petition. (See Rec. Doc. No. 7 at 5-11.) In his reply brief, Essell responds as follows:

To set the record straight, petitioner contends that his motion is not a challenge to his sentence and conviction as the learned prosecutor is trying to spin it to be, but rather, it is based on numerous denial[s] of his Constitutional rights of access to the Court, in total violation of his due process rights which is cognizable under 2241, thus, the court must deny the Governments build [sic] assertion. (Rec. Doc. No. 12 at 2.) Essell's petition does include allegations that he was denied access to the courts and that, as a result, his right to due process was violated, and the Court will address those allegations in the next section. However, we disagree with Essell's contention that he is not challenging his sentence in the instant petition. The relief he seeks is his immediate release from prison. That form of relief would only be available if Essell prevailed on his claim that he is entitled to a reduction of his sentence, and it is determined that he ...


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