United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
2012, Ronnie Dakota Covington pled guilty to two counts of
possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1). United States v.
Covington, 583 Fed.Appx. 263, 263 (4th Cir. 2014). The
sentencing court determined that Covington qualified as a
career offender and sentenced him to 151 months'
imprisonment. Id. The United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the sentencing court's
judgment. Id. at 263-64.
then filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion, asserting that his
trial counsel was ineffective in various ways; that motion
was denied on the merits. Covington v. United
States, No. 3:12-CR-61-RJC-1, 2015 WL 6553861 (W.D. N.C.
Oct. 29, 2015). In a subsequent 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)
motion for a sentence reduction, Covington argued that his
sentence should be reduced in accordance with Amendment 782
to the Sentencing Guidelines. United States v.
Covington, 3:12-cr-00061-RJC (W.D. N.C., Doc. 50). The
district court denied Covington's motion after concluding
that his sentence was “determined pursuant to the
career offender guideline” and that, therefore,
Amendment 782 did not lower the applicable Sentencing
Guidelines range. Id. at Doc. 57.
has now filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition with this
Court in which he argues that he is entitled to a sentence
reduction pursuant to Amendment 782. (Doc. 1). Specifically,
Covington asserts he was sentenced based on the quantity of
cocaine base that he possessed, and the Sentencing Guidelines
range for offenses that involve cocaine base have been
reduced by Amendment 782. Id.
federal law generally requires that, when evaluating a §
2241 petition, district courts “issue an order
directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should
not be granted, ” courts need not do so if “it
appears from the application that the applicant or person
detained is not entitled thereto.” 28 U.S.C. §
2243. Thus, “a district court is authorized to dismiss
a [§ 2241] petition summarily when it plainly appears
from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it
that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district
court.” Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U.S. 314, 320
(1996) (internal quotation marks omitted).
has filed a § 2241 petition, but “§ 2241
confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition of a federal
prisoner who is challenging not the validity but the
execution of his sentence.” Cardona v.
Bledsoe, 681 F.3d 533, 537 (3d Cir. 2012) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Conversely, “[m]otions
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are the presumptive means
by which federal prisoners can challenge [the validity of]
their convictions or sentences.” Okereke v. United
States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002).
Covington asserts that he challenges the execution of his
sentence (Doc. 1 at 2), “[i]n order to challenge the
execution of his sentence under § 2241, [Covington]
would need to allege that BOP's conduct was somehow
inconsistent with a command or recommendation in the
sentencing judgment.” Cardona, 681 F.3d at
537. Covington's allegation that a subsequent amendment
to the Sentencing Guidelines entitles him to a reduction
clearly does not meet this threshold. See,
e.g., Barnett v. United States, 445
Fed.Appx. 491, 492-93 (3d Cir. 2011) (holding that challenge
to career offender classification and assertion “that
Amendment . . . to the Sentencing Guidelines warrants a
reduction in his sentence” not cognizable in §
2241 petition); Fillingham v. United States, 867
F.3d 531, 539 (5th Cir. 2017) (same). Covington's claim
should therefore, as a general matter, be brought in a §
§ 2255 motions are the presumptive means to challenge a
conviction or sentence, there is an exception to that general
rule. Thus, “a federal prisoner may resort to §
2241 [to challenge his sentence] only if he can establish
that ‘the remedy by motion [under § 2255] is
inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his
detention.'” Bruce v. Warden Lewisburg
USP, 868 F.3d 170, 178 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
explained, “[a] § 2255 motion is inadequate or
ineffective only where the petitioner demonstrates that some
limitation of scope or procedure would prevent a § 2255
proceeding from affording him a full hearing and adjudication
of his wrongful detention claim.” Cradle v. U.S. ex
rel. Miner, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002). “It
is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability
to use it, that is determinative.” Id.
[The Third] Circuit permits access to § 2241 when two
conditions are satisfied: First, a prisoner must assert a
claim of actual innocence on the theory that he is being
detained for conduct that has subsequently been rendered
non-criminal by an intervening Supreme Court decision'
and our own precedent construing an intervening Supreme Court
decision-in other words, when there is a change in statutory
caselaw that applies retroactively in cases on collateral
review. And second, the prisoner must be otherwise barred
from challenging the legality of the conviction under §
2255. Stated differently, the prisoner has had no earlier
opportunity to challenge his conviction for a crime that an
intervening change in substantive law may negate. It matters
not whether the prisoner's claim was viable under circuit
precedent as it existed at the time of his direct appeal and
initial § 2255 motion. What matters is that the prisoner
has had no earlier opportunity to test the legality of his
detention since the intervening Supreme Court decision
Bruce, 868 F.3d at 180. The Savings Clause of §
2255 is jurisdictional; if a petitioner improperly challenges
the legality of his sentence under § 2241 when the
underlying claim does not fit within the Savings Clause, the
petition must be dismissed. See Id. at 183 ...