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Joseph v. Sniezek

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 23, 2013

RICHARD JOSEPH, Petitioner,
v.
T.R. SNIEZEK, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Blewitt's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 10) to Petitioner Richard Joseph's ("Petitioner") Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommends the Petition be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Because the Court will retain jurisdiction over this matter, the Report and Recommendation will be rejected.

I. Background

On September 11, 2008 and March 9, 2009, Petitioner filed through counsel Petitions for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2243. At the time the Petitions were filed, Petitioner was confined at FCI-Schuylkill. Although FCI-Schuylkill is located in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Petitions were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. However, Petitioner correctly named FCI-Schuylkill Warden Sniezek as the Respondent to the Petitions.

Because Petitioner was challenging the imposition of a sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, both Petitions were transferred to the Southern District of Florida. The Southern District of Florida consolidated the Petitions. On September 24, 2012, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the 2008 Petition and the first claim presented in the 2009 Petition for lack of jurisdiction. But, as the second claim presented in the 2009 Petition challenged the execution of Petitioner's sentence, the Southern District of Florida transferred this claim to the district "Petitioner was incarcerated at the time suit was filed, " which the court mistakenly believed to be the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

While the Petitions were pending in the Southern District of Florida, Petitioner, on or about March 23, 2010, was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina ("FMC Butner") to be treated for prostate cancer. Petitioner's treatment was completed in March 2011. Petitioner continues to be housed at FMC Butner waiting a total right knee replacement.

On October 17, 2012, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued an order directing the Respondent to file a response to the Petition. Respondent's response, filed on November 15, 2012, argued that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania lacked jurisdiction to hear Petitioner's remaining claim. Specifically, Respondent asserted that the claim should be dismissed in order to allow Petitioner to re-file the claim in the jurisdiction of his incarceration. Alternatively, Respondent suggested that the claim be transferred to the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the jurisdiction in which Petitioner was incarcerated at the time the Petition was originally filed in 2009. In opposition, while Petitioner objected to the dismissal of the Petition, Petitioner did not object to the transfer of the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

On July 9, 2013, Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania transferred the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. In that Order, Judge Rufe stated that "Petitioner at the time of filing was incarcerated at FCI Schuylkill, which is located in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the case is properly brought in that District." Judge Rufe also noted that while Petitioner was presently incarcerated in FMC Butner, "[n]either the Government nor counsel for the Petitioner disputes that the Middle District of Pennsylvania has jurisdiction to consider the Petition."

After the case was transferred to this District, Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued the instant Report and Recommendation recommending that the action be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina because that is "the place where Petitioner is presently confined and where jurisdiction over Respondent lies." (Doc. 10, 8.) Petitioner filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation. Petitioner's objections are now ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

Where objections to the Magistrate Judge's report are filed, the court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report. Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)). However, this only applies to the extent that a party's objections are both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984) (emphasis added). In conducting a de novo review, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F.Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the law permits the court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F.Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985); Goney , 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

III. Discussion

A. The Report and Recommendation

Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued the instant Report and Recommendation on July 17, 2013. According to Magistrate Judge Blewitt, jurisdiction over the Petition and the correct respondent is proper only in the Eastern District of North Carolina, where Petitioner is presently confined. Magistrate Judge Blewitt also rejected the argument that the Petition could be considered by the court in the jurisdiction in which Petitioner was incarcerated at the time of filing, i.e., the Middle District of Pennsylvania, because "there is generally only one proper respondent, and the custodian is the person' with the ability to produce the prisoner's body before the habeas court." Thus, the Report and Recommendation recommends ...


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