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James v. Spaulding

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 24, 2017

STEVEN C. JAMES, Petitioner
v.
CAPTAIN S. SPAULDING Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge.

         Before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241, filed by Petitioner, Steven C. James, an inmate currently incarcerated in the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution, White Deer, Pennsylvania. Preliminary review of the petition has been undertaken, see 28 U.S.C. §2243; see also, R. Governing §2254 Cases R.4[1] and, for the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. Background

         On April 1, 2015, Petitioner pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. U.S. v. James, 2:14-cr-0087-GCS-KAJ (S.D. Ohio April 1, 2015). He was sentenced to a term of 110 month imprisonment, three years supervised release and a $100.00 special assessment. Id.

         On June 27, 2016, James filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255. Id. In support of his claim, he argued that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, __U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551(2015), which held that “residual clause” of 18 U.S.C. §924(e)(2)(B)(ii) of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) was unconstitutionally vague, implied that similar, if not identical, language which appears in those sections of the Sentencing Guidelines is also unconstitutionally vague, and that he should be resentenced without regard to those portions of the Guidelines. See, U.S. v. James, 2:14-cr-0087-GCS-KAJ (S.D. Ohio April 1, 2015).

         On August 1, 2016, the Court granted Respondent's motion to hold proceedings in abeyance pending a decision in Beckles v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2510 (2016)(granting the petition for a writ of certiorari), which raised the issue of whether Johnson invalidates the career offender provisions of the United States Sentencing Guidelines - the same issue raised in Petitioner's motion to vacate. See, U.S. v. James, 2:14-cr-0087-GCS-KAJ (S.D. Ohio April 1, 2015).

         On March 6, 2017, the United States Supreme Court held that the United States Sentencing Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge under the Due Process Clause, and that the residual clause in §4B1.2(a)(2) therefore is not void for vagueness. Beckles v. United States, 580 U.S. __, __, 2017 WL 855781. The Supreme Court reasoned that “[u]nlike the ACCA, however, the advisory Guidelines do not fix the permissible range of sentences. To the contrary, they merely guide the exercise of a court's discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the statutory range. Accordingly, the Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge under the Due Process Clause.” Beckles, 580 U.S. __, __, 2017 WL 855781, *6.

         In an Opinion and Order dated March 16, 2016, the sentencing Court denied James' motion to vacate, based on Supreme Court's Beckles decision. See, U.S. v. James, 2:14-cr-0087-GCS-KAJ (S.D. Ohio April 1, 2015).

         On May 31, 2017, James filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241, seeking to be resentenced under Johnson. (Doc. 1).

         II. Discussion

         Federal prisoners seeking post-conviction relief from their judgment of conviction or the sentence imposed are generally required to bring their collateral challenges pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255. See 28 U.S.C. §2255(e). Section 2255(e) provides that:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus [pursuant to §2241] in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to [§2255], shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief by motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. §2255(e). To that end, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed that “[m]otions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255 are the presumptive means by which federal prisoners can challenge their convictions or sentences that are allegedly in violation of the Constitution.” Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974)). Section 2255(e) specifically prohibits federal courts from entertaining a federal prisoner's collateral challenge by an application for habeas corpus unless the court finds that a Section 2255 motion is inadequate or ineffective.” Okereke, 307 F.3d at 120 (citing In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251 (3d Cir. 1997)). This safety valve language in Section 2255(e) has been strictly construed. See Application of Galante, 437 F.2d 1164, 1165-66 (3d Cir. 1971) (concluding that unfavorable legal standards in circuit where sentencing court was located do not render Section 2255 remedy inadequate or ineffective); Millan-Diaz v. Parker, 444 F.2d 95, 97 (3d Cir. 1971) (concluding that doubts about the administration of a Section 2255 motion in particular do not make the remedy inadequate or ineffective); United States ex rel. Leguillou v. Davis, 212 F.2d 681, 684 (3d Cir. 1954) (holding that even if the sentencing court incorrectly disposes of a proper motion under Section 2255, the appropriate remedy is an appeal of that decision and not a habeas corpus petition).

         Importantly, Section 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the sentencing court has previously denied relief. Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251. Nor do legislative limitations like statutes of limitation or gatekeeping provisions render the Section 2255 remedy inadequate or ineffective so as to authorize pursuit of a habeas petition in this court. See, e.g., Cradle v. United States,290 F.3d 536, 539 (3d Cir. 2002); United States v. Brooks,230 F.3d 643, 647 (3d Cir. 2000); Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251. Rather, only when a prisoner is in the unusual position of having no earlier opportunity to challenge his conviction or “is being detained for conduct that has subsequently been ...


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