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Goodwin v. Zickenfoose

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 21, 2013

LEARLEY R. GOODWIN, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN D. ZICKENFOOSE, Respondent

MEMORANDUM

JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Before the court for disposition is Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt's report and recommendation ("R&R"). (Doc. 12). The R&R proposes that the court dismiss Petitioner Learley R. Goodwin's (hereinafter "petitioner") petition for a writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. 1). Petitioner filed objections to the R&R, making this matter ripe for disposition. (Doc. 13).

Background

On March 12, 2013, petitioner, a federal inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary in Allenwood, White Deer, Pennsylvania (hereinafter "USP-Allenwood"), filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ("Section 2241"). (Doc. 1). Petitioner challenges the United States Bureau of Prisons' (hereinafter "BOP") authority to set restitution payment schedules pertaining to his special assessment and fines.[1]

Petitioner alleges that the BOP attempted to force him to execute a financial payment plan contract pursuant to the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (hereinafter "IFRP"). The BOP allegedly threatened to place him on IFRP "refusal" status if he failed to sign the contract. Inmates on refusal status are restricted to a $25.00 per month spending limit at the BOP Commissary instead of the normal $320.00 per month limit. Petitioner claims that the threat of being placed on IFRP "refusal" status caused him extreme duress. Petitioner did not sign the IFRP contract and was placed on "refusal" status in 2006.

On February 28, 2007, petitioner executed an Inmate Financial Plan wherein he agreed to make quarterly payments in the amount of $25.00 toward his court-ordered fine. (Klett Decl. ¶ 11). The first payment was to be made in June 2007. (Id.) Since his arrival at USP-Allenwood, petitioner has not made any quarterly payments toward his fine or special assessment. (Id. ¶ 12).

This case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Blewitt for the purpose of issuing a report and recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The respondents filed a response to the petition on June 12, 2013. (Doc. 11). On August 12, 2013, Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommended denying petitioner's motion for two reasons. First, petitioner failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to suing in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Second, petitioner's substantive arguments fail on the merits.

On August 27, 2013, petitioner filed objections to Magistrate Judge Blewitt's recommendations. (Doc. 13). For the following reasons, petitioner's objections will be overruled and his motion for habeas relief will be denied.

Standard of Review

In disposing of objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the report against which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also Henderson v. Carlson , 812 F.2d 874, 877 (3d Cir. 1987). This court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Id . The district court judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. Id.

Discussion

Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommends denying the petition because petitioner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and the BOP did not exceed its authority by encouraging petitioner to participate in the IFRP. Petitioner objects to the recommendation that we deny his petition for habeas relief. Specifically, petitioner argues that he exhausted his administrative remedies. Additionally, petitioner contends that BOP lacked authority to set payment schedules toward his court-ordered fine. In the alternative, petitioner and respondent ask for the instant action to be transferred to the United States District Court of Maryland, the district in which petitioner was originally sentenced. Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommends denying the request as a transfer would be futile. The court addresses these issues in turn.

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

The law provides that federal inmates exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to filing a § 2241 petition for habeas relief.[2] See Moscato v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons , 98 F.3d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1996). Specifically, "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 or any other Federal law by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a). The Supreme Court has held that this exhaustion requirement is a mandatory prerequisite to an inmate petitioning the court for habeas relief. See Porter v. Nussle , 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002) (citing Booth v. Churner , 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001)). In Porter, the Court explained that the purpose of the statute is "to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoner suits... [by] afford[ing] corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before ...


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