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Vladimir Oropeza Diaz v. Warden David Ebbert

May 10, 2011

VLADIMIR OROPEZA DIAZ
PETITIONER
v.
WARDEN DAVID EBBERT RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 by pro se petitioner Vladimir Oropeza Diaz ("Diaz"), an inmate confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood ("FCI Allenwood"), in White Deer, Pennsylvania. Diaz, who is currently housed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at FCI Allenwood, requests a restraining order and immediate transfer. He alleges that he and the respondent entered into a protective custody agreement whereby Diaz would remain in the SHU to protect his health and safety until a transfer to another facility could be effectuated. Diaz contends that respondent is attempting to place him in the general prison population in violation of that agreement and at substantial risk to his safety. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be dismissed.

I. Background

Diaz is currently serving a ninety (90) month term of imprisonment imposed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida for conspiracy to obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by means of robbery.

(Doc. 9, Ex. 1 at 3). Factoring in good conduct time release, Diaz's projected release date is August 30, 2014. (Id. at 3-4).

On March 16, 2011, Diaz entered the Lieutenant's Office at FCI Allenwood and requested to be placed in the SHU for protection. (Doc. 6-1, at 2). He stated that he felt his life was in danger. (Id.) After a medical assessment officials placed Diaz in the SHU pending further investigation. (Id.) Prison officials initiated the investigation that very day. The investigating officer conducted interviews with Diaz and other inmates, but the officer was unable to verify any of Diaz's concerns. (Id. at 4). As a result, in a report dated April 11, 2011, the investigating officer recommended that Diaz be returned to the general population. (Id.)

On April 13, 2011, prison officials ordered Diaz to pack his belongings to return to the main compound. (Doc. 9, Ex. 1, at 14). Diaz refused. (Id.) Officials issued an incident report to Diaz for refusal to accept a program assignment. (Id.) The incident report is pending before the Disciplinary Hearing Officer. (Id. at 16).

On April 18, 2011, Diaz filed the instant emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1). Diaz requests a restraining order and immediate transfer, alleging that he has a binding contract with the respondent to protect his health and safety by removing him from the facility. (Id.) Diaz claims he faces the risks of harm or death if returned to the general prison population. On April 20, 2011, the court issued an order to show cause and ordered expedited briefing on the matter. (Doc. 3). In accordance with that order, the respondent, Warden David Ebbert ("Ebbert"), filed a response on April 27, 2011. (Doc. 9).

Ebbert asserts that the court should dismiss Diaz's petition for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, or alternatively, on the ground that a § 2241 habeas petition is the inappropriate vehicle for Diaz's claims. Diaz filed his reply on May 5, 2011 and an amending document on May 6, 2011. (Docs. 11, 12). Diaz contends that a § 2241 motion is appropriate to challenge prison transfers, type of detention and prison conditions. (Doc. 12). The matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition.*fn1

II. Discussion

Respondent Ebbert asserts that Diaz's challenge is not appropriately rased by way of habeas corpus petition. Because this contention implicates the court's jurisdiction over the matter, the court will address it first.

A petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 may be utilized to challenge the fact or duration of confinement, see Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973); Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540-42 (3d Cir. 2002), or the execution of the inmate's sentence. See Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 241 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 2001)). To obtain relief pursuant to § 2241, an inmate must show that he is being held "in violation of the Constitution or law or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2241. It is clear that Diaz's petition does not challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. Instead, Diaz claims that his challenge is to the execution of his sentence as delineated in the Third Circuit's opinion in Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235. (See Doc. 12).

In Woodall the Third Circuit addressed an inmate's § 2241 challenge to a Bureau of Prisons regulation limiting an inmate's placement in community confinement. Woodall, 432 F.3d 235. The Third Circuit acknowledged that the precise meaning of "execution of sentence" is "hazy," and turned to other Circuits to inform its understanding. Id. at 242. In particular, the Third Circuit cited the Second Circuit's definition of execution which includes "'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.'" Id. (quoting Jiminian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 147 (2d Cir. 2001)). On the basis of this language, Diaz contends that his request for relief is properly raised by way of a § 2241 habeas petition.

Despite the apparently broad language, the Woodall case is distinguishable from the present matter. The Woodall court concluded that the inmate's claim fell within the execution of his sentence, and therefore, the court determined that the claim was cognizable in habeas corpus. Id. at 243-44. However, the Woodall court's conclusion was based in pertinent part on the fact that "[c]arrying out a sentence through detention in a C[ommunity] C[onfinement] C[enter] is very different from carrying out a sentence in an ordinary penal institution." Id. at ...


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