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Amsden v. Ebbert

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 21, 2014

DAVID EBBERT, Warden Respondent


MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

I. Background

Petitioner, Kyle Ray Amsden, an inmate currently confined in the Canaan United States Penitentiary ("USP-Canaan"), Waymart, Pennsylvania, filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. No. 1, petition). He challenges his continued placement in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at USP-Canaan. Id . Specifically, Petitioner states that he has been "erroneously designated a sex offender' by the Bureau of Prisons which is reflected on his classification form(s)", and that his "ongoing confinement to Seg' at USP-Canaan amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment and federal law." Id . As relief, he seeks to be "re-classified to a lower security facility." Id . For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

II. Discussion

Habeas corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4 ("Preliminary Review; Serving the Petition and Order") of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (1977) (applicable to § 2241 petitions through Rule 1(b)). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton , 491 F.Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D.Pa.1979). 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." A petition may be dismissed without review of an answer "when the petition is frivolous, or obviously lacking in merit, or where... the necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself." Allen v. Perini , 26 Ohio Misc. 149, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 906 (1970). The Allen court also stated that "the District Court has a duty to screen out a habeas corpus petition which should be dismissed for lack of merit on its face." Id.

It is well-settled that a habeas corpus petition may be brought by a prisoner who seeks to challenge either the fact or duration of his confinement in prison. Preiser v. Rodriguez , 411 U.S. 475, 498-99 (1973). Federal habeas corpus review is available only "where the deprivation of rights is such that it necessarily impacts the fact or length of detention." Leamer v. Fauver , 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir.2002).

Moreover, in Levi v. Ebbert , 353 Fed.Appx. 681, 682 (3d Cir.2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concisely stated that claims concerning the determination of a federal prisoner's custody level "do not lie at the core of habeas' and, therefore are not cognizable in a § 2241 petition." The Court of Appeals observed that habeas corpus review should not be undertaken because the custody classification claims asserted did not challenge the fact or length of the prisoner's confinement. See id. Levi also correctly noted that prisoners simply "have no constitutional right to a particular classification." Id . See also Schwarz v. Meinberg, 2011 WL 2470122 *2 (C.D. Ca. May 31, 2011) (custody classification claims by federal inmate not cognizable on habeas review).

In the instant case, Petitioner's challenges to his continued placement in the SMU are not challenges to the fact or duration of his confinement. He does not claim that his judgment of conviction was invalid or that he is being confined in prison unlawfully. He does not seek release from prison, nor does he seek to be released sooner from prison. Rather, Petitioner complains that his erroneous classification as a sex offender has resulted in his placement and continued confinement in the SMU at USP-Canaan, which violates his constitutional rights. This placement, however, does not affect the length of his sentence. Significantly, Petitioner does not seek relief that would shorten the length of his current sentence and incarceration in prison. Nor does he seek release from prison by attacking the legality of his judgment or conviction. Therefore, his claims are not properly asserted in a habeas petition brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, but rather must be pursued through the filing of a Bivens[1] action. See Bedenfield v. Lewisburg, No. 10-1750 , 2010 WL 3511507, at *1 (3d Cir. Sept. 9, 2010) ("Bedenfield's challenge to his placement in the SMU is analogous to the garden variety prison transfer' that we have indicated should be challenged in a civil rights action, not via a habeas petition"); Green v. Bledsoe, 2010 WL 1372409, at *2 (M.D. Pa. April 5, 2010)(dismissing petitioner's § 2241 habeas petition challenging SMU placement as not cognizable under § 2241); Woodruff v. Williamson, Civ. No. 3:06-CV-2310 , 2009 WL 703200, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 12, 2009) (same). Accordingly, the claims in the instant petition are not appropriate under a § 2241 petition and will be dismissed.

III. Certificate of Appealability

Section 102 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (28 U.S.C. § 2253 (as amended)) codified standards governing the issuance of a certificate of appealability for appellate review of a district court's disposition of a habeas petition. Federal prisoner appeals from the denial of a § 2241 habeas corpus proceeding are not governed by the certificate of appealability requirement. United States v. Cepero , 224 F.3d 256, 264-65 (3d Cir. 2000)(en banc) (certificate of appealability not required to appeal from denial of § 2241 petition), abrogated on other grounds by Gonzalez v. Thaler, ___ U.S. ___, ___ , 132 S.Ct. 641, 649, 181 L.Ed.2d 619 (2012); Kornegay v. Ebbert , 502 Fed.Appx. 131, 133 (3d Cir. 2012). Thus, the Court need not address this issue in the current action.

IV. Conclusion

For the reasons stated above, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus will be DISMISSED. An appropriate order will follow.

Benjamin Schwarz, Youngstown, OH, pro se.

Daniel Ackerman, United States Attorney's Office Riverside Branch Office, Riverside, CA, for Respondent.


MARGARET M. MORROW, District Judge.

*1 On June 23, 2010, Benjamin Schwarz ("petitioner") received a 90-month federal sentence, followed by five years of supervised release, for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. ( See Declaration of Sarah Schuh ("Schuh Decl.") at ¶ 4 & Exh. A). At the time he commenced this action, petitioner was a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, California ("MDC").FN1 ( See Petition at 1-2).

FN1. Petitioner was incarcerated at the MDC from August 11, 2009, to October 20, 2010. (See Schuh Decl. at ¶ 5). Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio. (See Notice of Change of Address, filed on March 14, 2011).

On September 1, 2010, petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in Federal Custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ("Prior Petition"), in this Court, Benjamin Schwarz v. Erwin Meinberg, Warden, Case No. ED CV 10-1320 MMM (FMO), raising the following claims for federal habeas relief: (1) the federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") discriminated against petitioner because of his nationality by refusing to designate him to a "prison camp[;]" and (2) the conditions at the MDC are unsanitary and inhumane, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. FN2 ( See Courts Order of October 6, 2010, at 1, Benjamin Schwarz v. Erwin Meinberg, Warden, Case No. ED CV 10-1320 MMM (FMO)). On October 6, 2010, the Court dismissed the Prior Petition without prejudice to allow petitioner to file a new action after he exhausted his administrative remedies. ( See id. at 1 & 4; Judgment, Benjamin Schwarz v. Erwin Meinberg, Warden, Case No. ED CV 10-1320 MMM (FMO)).

FN2. The Court takes judicial notice of the files and records in Benjamin Schwarz v. Erwin Meinberg, Warden, Case No. ED CV 10-1320 MMM (FMO). See United States v. Wilson, 631 F.2d 118, 119 (9th Cir.1980) ("In particular, a court may take judicial notice of its own records in other cases, as well as the records of an inferior court in other cases."); accord United States v. Howard, 381 F.3d 873, 876 n. 1 (9th Cir.2004).

On November 8, 2010, petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in Federal Custody ("Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss the Petition on December 4, 2010 ("Motion"). Petitioner filed an Opposition to the Motion ("Opposition") on March 10, 2011. Respondent filed a Reply to the Opposition on March 21, 2011. On May 13, 2011, petitioner filed a "Declaration and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Response to Respondents Reply on Respondents Mo[ti]on to Dismiss, Based on Failure of Prudential Exhaustion; Request for Permission to File this Response" ("Sur-Reply").


The instant Petition raises, in essence, the same claims that petitioner raised in the Prior Petition: (1) the BOP refuses to designate petitioner to a "BOP camp" because of his Canadian citizenship; and (2) the conditions of the cells at the MDC, specifically with respect to the toilets, are unsanitary, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. ( See Petition at 3).

Respondent contends that the Petition should be dismissed because petitioner has not fully exhausted his administrative remedies and the Petition fails to state a cognizable habeas claim. ( See Motion at 3 & 4-8). Under the circumstances, the Court does not need to determine whether petitioner properly exhausted his federal administrative remedies with respect to the two claims raised in the instant Petition because, even assuming petitioner had exhausted his administrative remedies, the Petition fails to state cognizable habeas claims.FN3

FN3. Notably, petitioner does not address respondents argument regarding his failure to raise cognizable federal habeas claims. ( See, generally, Opposition at 1-19; Sur-Reply at 1-8).

*2 It is well-settled that claims relating to the conditions of a prisoner's confinement are not cognizable on federal habeas review. See, e.g., Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 859 (9th Cir.2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1063 , 124 S.Ct. 2388, 158 L.Ed.2d 963 (2004) ("[H]abeas jurisdiction is proper where a challenge to prison conditions would, if successful, necessarily accelerate the prisoner's release.... [H]abeas jurisdiction is absent... where a successful challenge to a prison condition will not necessarily shorten the prisoner's sentence."); Early v. Quintana, 2010 WL 5829211, at *3 n. 1 (C.D.Cal.2010), report and recommendation adopted by 2011 WL 662710 (C.D.Cal.2011) ("To the extent that petitioner... is attempting to raise conditions of confinement claims..., the Court is unable to consider such claims because they are not cognizable on habeas review."). Similarly, claims relating to an inmate's custody classification and/or designation to prison camp are also not cognizable. See, e.g., Levi v. Ebbert, 2009 WL 2169171, at *8 (M.D.Pa.), aff'd, 353 F.Appx. 681 (3d Cir.2009) (district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the petitioner's habeas claims regarding his custody classification and federal camp or low security prison eligibility because "they are not cognizable in a § 2241 habeas petition[, ]" i.e. , "they do not affect the length of his sentence and will not result in a quicker release of Petitioner from prison than his [projected] release date []"); Estrada v. Chavez, 2009 WL 1383328, at *4-5 (D.Ariz.2009) (finding that petitioner did not challenge the execution of his sentence where petitioner argued that "the application of Program Statement 5100.08 to classify [him] as a Medium Security inmate violate[d] the Due Process Clause []" and sought an order directing the BOP to reclassify him as a low security inmate and determine if he qualified for a transfer to a lower-security institution, because "[e]ven if th[e c]ourt concluded that Petitioner's disciplinary infractions were erroneous or that his custody level was inaccurately calculated, at most, that would impact the security level of the institution at which [he] would be eligible to serve his term of imprisonment and to which he could be transferred. The length of his sentence would not change[.]").' FN4 In short, petitioner's claims relating to the conditions of his confinement at the MDC and the BOP's refusal to designate him to a prison camp, (see Petition at 3), are not cognizable on federal habeas review as they do not challenge the duration of his confinement.

FN4. In denying petitioner's Administrative Remedy Request for designation to a "BOP Camp, " the Warden of the MDC stated:
[A]s a citizen of Canada, the Designations and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC), Grand Prairie, Texas, designated you to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, based on your Public Safety Factor of Alien. In accordance with Program Statement 5100.08, Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification Manual, "A male or female inmate who is not a citizen of the United States will have the PSF of Alien applied. When applied, the inmate or the long-term detainee shall be housed in at least a Low security level institution." As you are not a citizen of the United States, the PSF of Alien is appropriate, as is your designation to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.
(Schuh Decl., Exh. E at 23; see also id., Exh. E at 22 & 24-25).

Based on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that:

1. Respondents Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 6) is granted.

2. Judgment shall be entered dismissing this action without prejudice.

Stephen R. Cerutti, II, Esq., Mark E. Morrison, Esq., Office of United States Attorney, Harrisburg, PA, for Warden Lewisburg.

Before: BARRY, FISHER and GREENAWAY, JR., Circuit Judges.



**1 Petitioner Andrew Bedenfield, an inmate currently incarcerated at USP Lewisburg, appeals pro se from the District Court's dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Because we conclude that this appeal presents no substantial question, we will summarily affirm. See 3d Cir. L.A.R. 27.4; I.O.P. 10.6.

In the petition, Bedenfield claimed that prison officials failed to hold a disciplinary hearing after he was allegedly involved in a gang fight at USP Atwater. As a result of his involvement in the fight, he was placed in the "Special Management Unit" *33 ("SMU") at USP Lewisburg. FN1 He argues that the prison officials' failure to hold a disciplinary hearing violated his due process rights, and further claims that he does not meet the criteria for placement in the SMU.

FN1. Bedenfield's projected release date from prison is October 20, 2012, via good conduct time release.

The respondent filed a response to the petition, arguing that the petition should be dismissed because Bedenfield's claims are not cognizable under § 2241. The District Court agreed and dismissed the petition. Bedenfield filed a timely appeal.

We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Our review of the District Courts decision to dismiss Bedenfield's § 2241 petition is plenary. See Cradle v. U.S. ex rel. Miner, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir.2002).

Bedenfield's habeas petition does not challenge the basic fact or duration of his imprisonment, which is the "essence of habeas." See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484, 498-99, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). "[W]hen the challenge is to a condition of confinement such that a finding in plaintiff's favor would not alter his sentence or undo his conviction, [a civil rights action] is appropriate." Learner v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 542 (3d Cir.2002) (dismissing civil rights action because claims should have been brought in a habeas petition). Bedenfield's challenge to his placement in the SMU is analogous to the "garden variety prison transfer" that we have indicated should be challenged in a civil rights action, not via a habeas petition. Woodall v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir.2005). He has not raised a claim that involves the execution of his sentence. See id. at 243-44. Thus, we agree with the District Court that his claim is a challenge that should be brought in an action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). FN2 See id. at 241-42; Learner, 288 F.3d at 542.

FN2. We note that the District Court considered that even if Bedenfield brings his claims in a Bivens action, he is not likely to prevail. See, e.g. , Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 706 (3d Cir.1997) (15 months in administrative segregation did not implicate a liberty interest); Fraise v. Terhune, 283 F.3d 506, 522-23 (3d Cir.2002) (transfer to Security Threat Group Management Unit "STGMU"), through which gang leaders are identified, isolated, and reprogrammed before release back into the general population, does not implicate protected liberty interest.

Because the appeal does not present a substantial question, we will summarily affirm the District Courts order dismissing the petition without prejudice. See 3d Cir. L.A.R. 27.4; 3d Cir. I.O.P. 10.6.

Roy Allen Green, Lewisburg, PA, pro se.

Mark Morrison, Dennis Pfannenschmidt, U.S. Attorney's Office, Harrisburg, PA, for Respondent.


JAMES F. McCLURE, JR., District Judge.

*1 Petitioner Roy Allen Green ("Petitioner" or "Green"), an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg ("USP Lewisburg") in Lewisburg, 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. He challenges his placement in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at USP Lewisburg. For the reasons set forth below, the petition ...

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