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Nixon v. Baltazar

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 12, 2017

RONALD MARK NIXON, JR., Petitioner
v.
WARDEN J. BALTAZAR, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          RICHARD P. CONABOY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Background

         Ronald Mark Nixon, Jr. (Petitioner) an inmate presently confined at the Canaan United States Penitentiary, Waymart, Pennsylvania (USP-Canaan) filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Named as Respondent is USP-Canaan Warden J. Baltazar. Petitioner's request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted for the sole purpose of the filing of this action with this Court.

         Nixon states that he entered a guilty plea to a charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. As a result of his plea, Petitioner was sentenced to a 188 month term of imprisonment on October 31, 2013. See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 2-3.

         According to the petition, Nixon did not pursue a direct appeal. The Petitioner does acknowledge that he previously sought relief from the sentencing court via motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Doc. 1, ¶ 11.

         Furthermore, a prior request by Petitioner to file a successive § 2255 motion seeking relief under Johnson v. United States 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) and Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016) was denied because it was determined that Johnson was not applicable to Nixon's case. See Doc. 1, p. 71.

         In his pending action, Petitioner claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief under two decisions by the United States Supreme Court, Burraae v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 881 (2014) and McFadden v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2298 (2015) . See Doc. 1, ¶ 12. Both cases were decided after the imposition of Nixon's sentence. Specifically, Nixon contends that under the principles announced in Burraae and McFadden, he is actually innocent because his guilty plea was involuntary and unintelligent and the result of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         Discussion

         Standard of Review

         Habeas corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4 ("Preliminary Review") of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foil. § 2254 (2004). See, e.g., Mutope v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 2007 WL 846559 *2 (M.D. Pa. March 19, 2007) (Kosik, J.). The provisions of Rule 4 are applicable to § 2241 petitions under 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. . . ." Gorko v. Holt, Civ. No. 4:05-cv-956, 2005 WL 1138479 *1(M.D. Pa. May 13, 2005)(McClure, J.)(quoting Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).

         Since Nixon initiated his action before this Court, he is apparently arguing that he may bring his present claims via a federal habeas corpus petition and that this Court has jurisdiction over his § 2241 action by virtue of his ongoing detention at USP-Canaan.

         A federal prisoner challenging the validity of a federal guilty plea and sentence, and not the execution of his sentence, is generally limited to seeking relief by way of a motion pursuant to § 2255. In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997); Russell v. Martinez, No. 08-3898, 2009 WL 1154194, at *2 (3d Cir. Apr. 30, 2009) ("a section 2255 motion filed in the sentencing court is the presumptive means for a federal prisoner to challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence"). Such a challenge can only be brought under § 2241 if "it . . . appears that the remedy by [a § 2255] motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). This language in § 2255, known as the safety-valve clause, must be strictly construed. Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251; Russell, 2009 WL 1154194, at *2 (the safety valve "is extremely narrow and has been held to apply in unusual situations, such as those in which a prisoner has had no prior opportunity to challenge his conviction for a crime later deemed to be non-criminal by an intervening change in the law").

         "It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative." Cradle v. United States, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002). "Section 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the sentencing court does not grant relief, the one-year statute of limitations has expired, or the petitioner is unable to meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of the amended ยง 2255." ...


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