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Jeffrey Coplin v. Donna Zickefoose

August 30, 2011

JEFFREY COPLIN,
PETITIONER,
v.
DONNA ZICKEFOOSE,
RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Robert B. Kugler

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

KUGLER, District Judge

Jeffrey Coplin, ("Petitioner"), an inmate incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix in New Jersey, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging the duration of his federal sentence. This Court will summarily dismiss the Petition without prejudice to any right Petitioner may have to file a motion in the sentencing court for reduction of his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

I. BACKGROUND

On February 27, 2003, United States District Judge J. Curtis Joyner sentenced Petitioner to concurrent sentences of 20 years imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release, the mandatory minimum where a defendant has previously been convicted for a felony drug offense, see 21 U.S.C. § 841, based on his guilty plea to two counts of distribution of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and two counts of distribution of cocaine base within 1,000 feet of a playground, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 860. See United States v. Coplin, 106 Fed. App'x 143, 144 (3d Cir. 2004). Petitioner appealed, and on August 9, 2004, the Third Circuit affirmed. Id.

Coplin filed a § 2255 motion in the sentencing court in March 2006, which Judge Joyner denied in November 2007, after conducting an evidentiary hearing. See United States v. Coplin, Crim. No. 00-0745 (JCJ) order (E.D. Pa. Nov. 2, 2007). The Third Circuit denied a certificate of appealability on June 13, 2008. Id. at Dkt. 105. On September 9, 2010, the Third Circuit denied Coplin's application to file a second or successive § 2255 motion. Id. at Dkt. 114.

On June 17, 2011, Coplin filed a two-page document "requesting to be released by the Bureau of Prisons because the judgment within the commitment order is unconstitutional in violation of equal protection of the laws." See Coplin v. Zickefoose, Civ. No. 11-4422 petition (RBK) (D.N.J. filed Aug. 1, 2011). By Opinion and Order entered August 5, 2011, this Court construed the submission as a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, and summarily dismissed the Petition without prejudice to any right Petitioner may have to file a motion in the sentencing court for reduction of his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

On August 5, 2011, Coplin filed a document labeled as a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 seeking release on the ground that "his right to equal protection of the laws is violated where similarly situated persons have received substantially lower terms of imprisonment for the same crime [distribution of crack cocaine] where the mandatory penalty is set by the amount of controlled substance the defendant is held responsible for distributing or possessing under § 841(b)." (Dkt. 1 at 10.) Petitioner asserts:

The petitioner is being detained by the Bureau of Prisons pursuant to a Judgment and Commitment Order issued by the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Petitioner was charged and convicted of distributing 50 grams of cocaine base, known as "crack." [U.S.A. v. Coplin, 2:00-CR-00745-1] (JCJ). This Controlled substance which is now considered less serious then once believed, has been targeted by the Department of Justice for reform because the "current federal cocaine sentencing structure fails to appropriately reflect the differences and similarities between crack and powder cocaine, . . . the Administration believes Congress's goal should be to completely eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine." Lanny Breuer before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, at p. 10 . . . . This announcement led the way . . . for district courts to reject the 100:1 ratio and vary categorically from the crack-cocaine Guidelines based on a policy disagreement with those Guidelines . . . . [I]f district court[s] can [now] impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum . . , the petitioner demands to benefit the same as those similarly situated. It is also clear that the petitioner is denied equal protection because of his race . . . . The petitioner believes that the crack statute is discriminatory, and was intended because African Americans are a disfavored minority, and these type of laws are a continuity of methods thought to be needed to control African Americans. The petitioner avers that his right to equal protection of the laws of the United States is violated where similarly situated defendants, under te same federal statute, with identical amounts of crack cocaine or greater, receive substantially lower sentences due to the shift in Department of Justice policy shift toward sentences for crack cocaine offenses. (Dkt. 1 at 2-5.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"Habeas corpus petitions must meet heightened pleading requirements." McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994). Habeas Rule 2(c) requires a § 2254 petition to "specify all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner," "state the facts supporting each ground," "state the relief requested," be printed, typewritten, or legibly handwritten, and be signed under penalty of perjury. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c), applicable through Rule 1(b).

Habeas Rule 4 requires a judge to sua sponte dismiss a § 2254 petition without ordering a responsive pleading "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court." 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 4, applicable through Rule 1(b). Thus, "Federal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its face." McFarland, 512 U.S. at 856. Dismissal without the filing of an answer has been found warranted when "it appears on the face of the petition that petitioner is not entitled to [habeas] relief." Siers v. Ryan, 773 F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1989); see also McFarland, 512 U.S. at 856; United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, ...


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