Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Middleton v. Ebbert

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 2, 2019

DOMINIQUE L. MIDDLETON, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID J. EBBERT, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann, United States District Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2014, Dominique L. Middleton pled guilty to attempting to interfere with commerce by robbery (“Hobbs Act Robbery”), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) (Count One), brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, [1] in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count Two), and being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Three).[2] In 2015, Middleton was sentenced to 130 months' imprisonment, which consisted of 46 months' imprisonment for Counts One and Three, and a consecutive 84-month sentence for Count Two.[3]

         Middleton did not appeal his convictions or sentence, but instead filed a timely 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion in which he asserted that, in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), his § 924(c) conviction was void, as Hobbs Act Robbery no longer constituted a crime of violence.[4] The sentencing court concluded that Middleton's argument was foreclosed by binding precedent from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and denied the motion.[5] In April 2019, Middleton applied to file a second or successive § 2255 motion based on Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.Ct. 1204 (2018); the Sixth Circuit dismissed that application for failure to prosecute.[6]

         Middleton has now filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition with this Court in which he argues that his § 924(c) conviction must be vacated because the United States Supreme Court held in United States v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 2319 (2019), that § 924(c) is unconstitutionally vague.[7] Middleton has also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which will be granted.[8]

         II. DISCUSSION

         Although 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.”[9] 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.”[10]

         Middleton challenges the validity of his criminal conviction, not its execution.[11] Although Middleton brings this challenge in a § 2241 petition, “[m]otions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are the presumptive means by which federal prisoners can challenge their convictions or sentences.”[12] Thus, “a federal prisoner may resort to § 2241 only if he can establish that ‘the remedy by motion [under § 2255] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.'”[13]

         As the 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.”[14] “It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative.”[15]

         Accordingly,

[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 issued.[16]

         The Savings Clause of § 2255 is jurisdictional; if a petitioner improperly challenges his federal conviction under § 2241 when the underlying claim does not fit within the Savings Clause, the petition must be dismissed.[17]

         When evaluated under this standard, Middleton's claim does not fit within the Savings Clause, and this Court therefore lacks jurisdiction to consider his § 2241 petition. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently concluded, the Supreme Court's holding in Davis is a new rule of constitutional law that was made retroactively applicable by the Supreme Court to cases on collateral review.[18] The Eleventh Circuit's reasoning is compelling, and the Court adopts it here. Thus, the holding in Davis fits within 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2), and any claim based on Davis may be raised in a second or successive § 2255 motion.[19] Because “§ 2255(h) . . . permit[s] a second bite at the habeas apple” for any Davis-based claim, § 2255 is not “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of” Middleton's detention, and he may not pursue his claim in a § 2241 petition.[20] Rather, Middleton's proper remedy lies in filing a 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h) application with the Sixth Circuit.

         III. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.