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Brewer v. United States

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 9, 2014

DALLAS P. BREWER, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, 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 February 2005, Petitioner was indicted in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota.[2] In May 2005, he entered into a plea agreement, and pled guilty to a single count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846(a)(6). In November 2006, Petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison. He is presently serving his sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth, Minnesota.

After Petitioner was convicted and sentenced, he filed a direct appeal, contending that the trial court had committed various sentencing errors. (Petition, [Docket No. 1], p. 3, § 7.) However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Petitioner's appeal, and affirmed his conviction and sentence, in March 2007. (Id.)

More than six years later, (July 2013), Petitioner filed a motion in the trial court seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner's § 2255 motion challenged his sentence on several grounds. However, the trial court found that Petitioner's § 2255 motion was barred by the one-year statute of limitations that applies to such motions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).[3] Petitioner was not granted a Certificate of Appealability following the denial of his § 2255 motion. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c).

In the present § 2241 habeas corpus case, Petitioner is once again attempting to challenge the fifteen-year sentence that was imposed in his North Dakota federal criminal case. Petitioner claims that (1) his "criminal history category and base offense level were severely inflated, " (2) he was "eligible for added benefits" under the federal sentencing guidelines, (3) the "United States recommended a two-level downward adjustment for Acceptance of Responsibility and an additional one-level adjustment for timely notifying the government of his intention to enter a guilty plea, " and (4) he was "denied substantive due process when not all aspects of [the] plea agreement were made known by former counsel." (Petition, pp. 7-9, § 13.) Based on these listed claims, Petitioner is asking the Court to conduct a "complete review of [his] sentence." ( Id., p. 9, § 14.)

For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that Petitioner's current claims for relief 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." (Emphasis added.)

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 fifteen-year sentence imposed in his federal criminal case in the District of North Dakota. He claims that his sentence should be revisited because of several alleged errors during the sentencing process. 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 that is barred by the exclusive remedy rule can be construed to be a motion brought under § 2255, and the matter can then be transferred to the original trial court so the prisoner's claims can be addressed on the merits there. However, Petitioner is precluded from seeking relief under § 2255, because he has already done so once before. Any new request for § 2255 relief that might now come before the trial court would have to be treated as a "second or successive" § 2255 motion, which could not be entertained by the trial court without preauthorization from the apposite Circuit Court of Appeals. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b)(3) and 2255(h). Petitioner apparently does not have a preauthorization order from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, so it would not be appropriate to construe the present habeas corpus petition as a § 2255 motion, and transfer this matter to the District in which Petitioner was convicted and sentenced. Furthermore, it clearly appears that any new application for relief under § ...


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