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Hairston v. Groneolsky

December 19, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle United States District Judge


This matter is before the Court on November 14, 2007, upon submission of the petition of ARTHUR L. HAIRSTON, SR. (hereinafter "Petitioner") for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241,*fn1 and it appearing that:

1. In 2001, after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, Petitioner was convicted on three counts of distribution of crack cocaine, and two counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of crack cocaine. See United States v. Hairston, 152 F. Supp. 2d 894, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8802 (N.D. W. Va. 2001). Petitioner raises numerous claims challenging his convictions, as well as his sentences imposed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. See United States v. Hairston, 38 Fed. App. 884 (4th Cir. 2002). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of Petitioner's trial court, see id., and the Supreme Court denied Petitioner certiorari. See Hairston v. United States, 537 U.S. 964 (2002).

2. Following his unsuccessful direct appeal, Petitioner filed numerous actions with the Northern District of West Virginia, as well as with this District, appealing all decisions of the Northern District of West Virginia to the Fourth Circuit, and the decision of this District to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The entire list of Petitioner's litigations is too extensive to be reproduced in this Order. It shall suffice, therefore, to note that Petitioner filed two § 2255 motions with the Northern District of West Virginia, and denials of these motions were affirmed by the Fourth Circuit, with certioraris denied by the United States Supreme Court. See United States v. Hairston, 227 Fed. App. 286 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 458 (2007), and United States v. Hairston, 158 Fed. App. 451 (4th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 126 S.Ct. 2056 (2006).

3. Petitioner's instant § 2241 application could be roughly subdivided into two groups of statements. Group One expresses Petitioner's frustration with the fact that the Supreme Court of United States, as of now, has not expressly addressed the issue of whether the holding of Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), is retroactively applicable to judgments that became final before the issuance of Blakely. Group Two of Petitioner's statements presents his argument that the holding of Blakely should be retroactively applicable in general, and to Petitioner's conviction and sentences in particular.*fn2 The Petition includes a demand to release Petitioner immediately.

4. A court presented with a petition for writ of habeas corpus "shall forthwith award the writ or issue an order directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted, unless it appears from the application that the applicant or person detained is not entitled there." 28 U.S.C. § 2243. Thus, "[f]ederal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its face." McFarland, 512 U.S. at 856; see also United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, 437 (3d Cir. 2000); Siers v. Ryan, 773 F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1985).

5. Section 2241 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides in relevant part:

The writ of habeas corpus shall not extend to a prisoner unless- . . . He is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.

28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). As a result of the practical difficulties encountered in hearing a challenge to a federal sentence in the district of confinement rather than the district of sentence, in its 1948 revision of the Judicial Code, Congress established a procedure whereby a federal prisoner might collaterally attack his sentence in the sentencing court.*fn3 See 28 U.S.C. § 2255; Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343-44 (1974); United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 219 (1952). Section 2255 provides in relevant part:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255. "Motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are the presumptive means by which federal prisoners can challenge their convictions or sentences that are allegedly in violation of the Constitution." Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002). This is because § 2255 expressly prohibits a district court from entertaining a challenge to a prisoner's federal sentence under § 2241 unless the remedy under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective" to test the legality of the petitioner's detention.*fn4 See 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Specifically, paragraph five of § 2255 provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus [pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241] in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2255; see Cradle v. Miner, 290 F.3d 536 (3d Cir. 2002); In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251 (3d Cir. 1997). A § 2255 motion is inadequate or ineffective, authorizing resort to § 2241, "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, 290 F.3d at 538. "It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative." Id. "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. The provision exists to ensure that petitioners have a fair opportunity to seek collateral relief, not to enable them to evade procedural requirements."*fn5 Id. at 539.

6. Turning to the case at bar, Petitioner argues that his sentence is unconstitutional under Blakely. Blakely held that the State of Washington's sentencing scheme, which allowed enhancements to a defendant's sentence based on facts not determined by a jury or a guilty plea, violated the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury. See 542 U.S. at 301-02. Blakely only applies to persons in state custody, but its holding was extended to persons in federal custody by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), in which the ...

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