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Caballero v. Fisher

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

August 19, 2013

JAOQUIN DAVID CABALLERO, Petitioner,
v.
SCOTT P. FISHER, Warden, FCI Sandstone, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

TONY N. LEUNG, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The case has been referred to this Court for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons discussed below, it is recommended that this case be summarily dismissed for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 4 of The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases In The United States District Courts.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

In 2003, a federal court jury in the Northern District of Iowa found Petitioner guilty on two counts of distributing methamphetamine. A 240-month prison sentence was imposed for each conviction, to be served concurrently. Petitioner is presently serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota.

After Petitioner was convicted and sentenced, he filed a direct appeal, contending that the trial court had erroneously determined the quantity of methamphetamine that was attributable to him for sentencing purposes. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument and affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. United States v. Caballero, 94 Fed.Appx. 437 (8th Cir. 2004) (unpublished opinion).

As far as the Court can tell, Petitioner has not previously challenged his conviction or sentence in any post-conviction proceeding brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or otherwise.[2]

In the present § 2241 habeas corpus case, Petitioner is attempting to challenge the sentence he received in 2003 in his federal criminal case in the Northern District of Iowa. He now claims that he "is serving a sentence which is based on information contained in his P.S.R. [pre-sentence report] with respect to the quantity of methamphetamine (mixture) that is not exact and open to interpretation." (Petition, p. 1.)

For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that Petitioner's current challenges to his 2003 federal criminal conviction and sentence in the Northern District of Iowa cannot be brought in a § 2241 habeas corpus petition.

II. DISCUSSION

As a general rule, a federal prisoner can maintain a collateral challenge to his conviction or sentence only by filing a motion in the trial court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Abdullah v. Hedrick , 392 F.3d 957, 959 (8th Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 545 U.S. 1147 (2005). Subsection 2255(e) provides that -

"[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section [i.e., § 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."

In effect, a motion brought in the trial court under § 2255 is the exclusive remedy available to a federal prisoner who is asserting a collateral challenge to his conviction or sentence. "It is well settled a collateral challenge to a federal conviction or sentence must generally be raised in a motion to vacate filed in the sentencing court under § 2255... and not in a habeas petition filed in the court of incarceration... under § 2241." Hill v. Morrison , 349 F.3d 1089, 1091 (8th Cir. 2003). Federal district courts lack jurisdiction to hear a federal prisoner's collateral challenge to his original conviction or sentence brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 unless the prisoner has affirmatively demonstrated that the remedy provided by § 2255 "is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of...[his] detention.'" DeSimone v. Lacy , 805 F.2d 321, 323 (8th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255); see also Von Ludwitz v. Ralston , 716 F.2d 528, 529 (8th Cir. 1983) (per curiam) (same). The "inadequate or ineffective remedy" exception is sometimes called the "savings clause, " ( Abdullah , 392 F.3d at 959), because, when it applies, it can save a § 2241 habeas petition from being dismissed under the § 2255 exclusive remedy rule.

In this case, it is readily apparent that Petitioner is challenging the validity of the 240-month sentence imposed in his federal criminal case in the Northern District of Iowa. He claims that his sentence was based on unreliable information regarding the quantity of the drugs involved in his offenses. Because Petitioner is directly challenging the validity of the sentence imposed by the trial court, his current habeas corpus petition is barred by § 2255's exclusive remedy rule unless the savings clause applies here.

In some cases, a § 2241 habeas petition barred by the exclusive remedy rule can simply be construed to be a motion brought under § 2255. The matter can then be transferred to the trial court judge so the prisoner's claims can be addressed on the merits there. Here, however, Petitioner is precluded from seeking relief under § 2255 because of the one-year statute of limitations that applies to § 2255 motions. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Any § 2255 motion that Petitioner might attempt to bring before the trial court at this late date would be ...


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