United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge
Dewayne Ashford, 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.
Petitioner's request to proceed in forma
pauperis will be granted for the purpose of the filing
of this action with this Court. Named as Respondent is Warden
Baltazar of USP-Canaan.
states that he was convicted of possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Florida. As a result of his conviction,
Ashford was sentenced on March 16, 2004 to a two hundred and
twenty (220) month term of imprisonment. Petitioner indicates
that he did not pursue either a direct appeal or seek relief
via a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
pending action claims he is entitled to federal habeas corpus
relief under the grounds announced in Johnson v. United
States, 576 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) and Welch
v. United States, ___ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1262,
(2016). Petitioner contends that he no longer has the
necessary convictions on his record to qualify for an Armed
Career Criminal Act (ACCA) sentence enhancement. He indicates
that some of the predicate offenses relied upon for the ACCA
enhancement have been dismissed. As relief, he asks that his
sentence be corrected.
Johnson, the United States Supreme Court held that
the residual clause of the ACCA sentence enhancement
provision was unconstitutionally vague. See United States
v. Terry, No. 14-cv-1006, 2015 WL 4255527 (W. D. Pa.
July 14, 2015). Welch recognized that
Johnson is a new substantive rule of constitutional
law that is retroactively applicable in a collateral attack
on a final conviction.
28 United States Code § 2241 vests the federal district
courts with jurisdiction to grant a writ of habeas corpus to
persons in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). A
habeas corpus petition under § 2241 “allows a
federal prisoner to challenge the ‘execution' of
his sentence.” Woodall v. Federal Bureau of
Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 241 (3d Cir. 2005). Federal
habeas corpus review may be employed by a prisoner to
challenge either the fact or duration of his confinement in
prison. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973),
Telford v. Hepting, 980 F.2d 745, 748 (3d Cir.
1993). However, relief 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).
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. foll. § 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).
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, 2005 WL 1138479 *1(M.D. Pa. May 13,
2005)(McClure, J.)(quoting Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d
134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).
he initiated his action before this Court, Petitioner is
apparently arguing that he may bring his present claim via a
federal habeas corpus petition. It would appear that it is
Ashford's contention that this Court has jurisdiction
over his § 2241 action by virtue of his ongoing
detention at USP-Canaan.
challenging the validity of a federal sentence and not its
execution,  a federal prisoner is generally limited to
seeking relief by way of a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d
Cir. 1997); Russell v. Martinez, 325 Fed.Appx. 45,
47 (3d Cir. 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”). 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, 325 Fed.Appx. at 47 (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”).
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
§ 2255.” Id. at 539. See also,
Alexander v. Williamson, 324 Fed.Appx. 149, 151 (3d Cir.
is clearly challenging the validity of his 2004 ACCA enhanced
sentence which was imposed by the Northern District of
Florida. Thus, he must do so by following the requirements of
§ 2255. As previously noted, there is no indication by
Petitioner that he either filed a direct appeal or previously
sought relief via a § 2255 action. Ashford's instant
claims are not based upon a contention that his conduct is no
longer criminal as a ...