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Mabry v. Meeks

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 15, 2015

JAMES MABRY, Petitioner,
v.
BOBBY L. MEEKS, Respondent.

OPINION

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Before this Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by the Petitioner, federal prisoner James Mabry, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For the reasons that follow, the petition is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

II. Discussion

A. Relevant Background

In May 2005, Petitioner appeared before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of cocaine base. On March 9, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania sentenced Petitioner to 210 months of imprisonment followed by four years of supervised release.

Petitioner filed with the trial court a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in May 2006. He argued that his counsel was ineffective for failing to file a timely appeal and raised various challenges to the career criminal enhancement, similar to those he raises in the instant petition (Resp's Exs. D & E). The trial court denied Petitioner's § 2255 motion on May 15, 2006. (Resp's Ex. F). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the decision of the trial court in 2008. (Resp's Ex. G).

Petitioner continued to file motions challenging his sentence, all of which were denied. (See, e.g., Motion to Reduce Sentence re Crack Cocaine Offense (Resp's Ex. B, Dkt. Nos. 135, 145); Motion for Adjustment, Modification of an Imposed Term of Imprisonment Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B) Predicated Upon Another Modifying Statute 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (id., Dkt. Nos. 148, 149); Motion to Reduce Sentence re Crack Cocaine Offense (id., Dkt. Nos. 155, 159); Motion to Vacate Conviction Due to Discovery of Facts Amounting to a Grave Miscarriage of Justice (id., Dkt. Nos. 161, 164)).

Having had no success challenging his judgment of sentence by way of motions filed with his trial court, Petitioner - who was incarcerated within the territorial boundaries of the Western District of Pennsylvania when he commenced this case - filed with this Court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [ECF No. 5]. He alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when his attorneys "abandoned" him during critical stages of the criminal proceedings [id. at 6-7]; the trial court erred "when it assigned (#19) criminal history points based upon six (6) prior convictions" [id. at 7]; (3) his "attorney was ineffective due to his hiring of (local attorney) for his failure of not following a court order to reply to court with briefs in support of several motions that [were] very important that local attorney should [have] submitted" [id.]; and (4) "plain error at calculating criminal history points of Petitioner. Sentence was miscalculated and was enhance[d] unjustly" [id. at 8]. As relief, Petitioner requests that his "sentence... be vacated so that the court can resentence him under the correct guidelines, specifically as a non-career offender." [Id. at 8]. [See also ECF No. 6, Brief in Support of Petition].

In his Answer, Respondent contends that the petition must be dismissed because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. [ECF No. 12]. Petitioner filed a Reply in which he insists that he can pursue his claims in a § 2241 habeas petition. [ECF No. 14].

B. Discussion

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute[.]" Cardona v. Bledsoe, 681 F.3d 533, 535 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). "Two federal statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 & 2255, confer federal jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by federal inmates." Id . "The core' habeas corpus action is a prisoner challenging the authority of the entity detaining him to do so, usually on the ground that his predicate sentence or conviction is improper or invalid." McGee v. Martinez, 627 F.3d 933, 935 (3d Cir. 2010). That type of action is brought in the district court that tried and sentenced the prisoner by way of a motion filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which permits a federal prisoner to challenge his conviction or sentence "upon the ground that [it] was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack[.]" In contrast, § 2241 "confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition of a federal prisoner who is challenging not the validity but the execution of his sentence, " McGee, 627 F.3d at 935, such as, for example, the way in which the Bureau of Prisons is computing his sentence. See, e.g., Barden v. Keohane, 921 F.2d 476, 478-79 (3d Cir. 1990). A habeas corpus action pursuant to § 2241 must be brought in the custodial court - the federal district court in the district the prisoner is incarcerated - not the district court where the prisoner was tried and sentenced.

Importantly, § 2255 prohibits district courts from entertaining a § 2241 habeas corpus petition filed by a federal prisoner who is raising the types of claims that must be raised in a § 2255 motion unless it "appears that the remedy by [§ 2255 motion] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). This provision of § 2255 is commonly referred to as the "savings clause, " "safety valve, " or "safety hatch."

Petitioner contends that the sentenced imposed upon him by Middle District Court of Pennsylvania is invalid. His claims are precisely the type that must be brought in a § 2255 motion before the district court that tried and sentenced him. Of course, this Court is aware that since Petitioner has already filed one § 2255 motion in the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, he cannot file a second one. That is because the 1996 amendments that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") made to § ...


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