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Byrd v. Scism

November 2, 2010

VAL BYRD, PETITIONER,
v.
WILLIAM SCISM, LSCI ALLENWOOD WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)

(Judge Jones)

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. Introduction

This case, which comes before the Court on an initial screening review, involves habeas corpus and health care, and asks the question whether the great writ is the proper prescription for the medical complaints of the Petitioner, a federal prisoner. Because we believe that Byrd cannot obtain the relief he seeks through a petition for writ of habeas corpus, it is recommended that the petition be denied, without prejudice to Byrd filing a separate civil lawsuit.

II. Statement of Facts and Case

The pertinent facts set forth in the petition can be simply stated: Val Byrd is a federal prisoner who is currently incarcerated at the Allenwood Low Security Correctional Institution in White Deer, Pennsylvania (LSCI Allenwood). (Doc. 1.) Byrd also recites that he suffers from a spinal condition, and states that he has been complaining about the nature and quality of the care he has received for that condition for much of the past three years while in prison. (Id.)

In addition, according to Byrd, he suffers from another unusual medical complaint. Specifically, Byrd alleges that: "my penis and prostrate [sic] feel as if they are the size of a basketball and watermelon". (Id. at p.2) While Byrd attaches documents to his petition which plainly state that an October, 2010, outside medical consultation revealed no medical concerns which required immediate treatment, he nonetheless insists that he needs immediate medical treatment. (Id.) On the basis of these assertions, Byrd then invokes the Court's power to issue a writ of habeas corpus, and specifically requests that we use this great writ to order either his release, or to prescribe specific prison transfers and medical treatment for him. (Id.)

For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that this petition be denied.

III. Discussion

It is well established that habeas corpus petitions brought under § 2241 are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (1977) (Rule 4 applies to § 2241 petitions under Rule 1(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491 F. Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D. Pa. 1979) (explaining that Rule 4 is "applicable to Section 2241 petitions through Rule 1(b)"). Rule 4 provides in pertinent part: "If it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner." Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts.

In this case, Byrd's petition is subject to dismissal because it misconstrues, in a fundamental way, the scope and reach of the writ of habeas corpus. In this pro se petition, Byrd, a federal inmate, invites this Court to use the writ of habeas corpus for an end far removed from its intended purpose. Specifically, Byrd urges the Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus which would regulate the conditions of his current confinement, and specifically would require the Bureau of Prisons to schedule some specific form of transfer and treatment for this inmate, who allegedly suffers from back problems and an enlarged penis and prostate. Because inmates are not entitled to use the writ of habeas corpus to secure this type of relief relating to the conditions of their confinement, this petition should be dismissed, without prejudice to Byrd bringing a separate civil action challenging the conditions of his confinement.

The writ of habeas corpus, one of the protections of individual liberties enshrined in our Constitution, serves a specific, and well-defined purpose. The writ of habeas corpus exists to allow those in the custody of the state to challenge in court the fact, duration and lawfulness of that custody. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted: "The underlying purpose of proceedings under the 'Great Writ' of habeas corpus has traditionally been to 'inquire into the legality of the detention, and the only judicial relief authorized was the discharge of the prisoner or his admission to bail, and that only if his detention were found to be unlawful.' " Powers of Congress and the Court Regarding the Availability and Scope of Review, 114 Harv. L.Rev. 1551, 1553 (2001)."Leamer v. Fauver,288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002). However, there is a necessary corollary to this principle, one which has long been recognized by the courts; namely, "[i]f a . . . prisoner is seeking [other relief], he is attacking something other than the fact or length of his confinement, and he is seeking something other than immediate or more speedy release-the traditional purpose of habeas corpus. In [such cases], habeas corpus is not an appropriate or available federal remedy." Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 494 (1973).

Thus, where a prisoner wishes to constitutionally challenge some aspect of the conditions of his confinement unrelated to the fact or duration of his detention, courts have repeatedly held that the writ of habeas corpus is not the proper vehicle for bringing this legal challenge. For example, in Leamer v. Fauver , suprathe United States Court of Appeals discussed whether a habeas corpus petition was the appropriate tool for an inmate to use when challenging a prison disciplinary placement decision, like the decision at issue in this ...


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