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Willie Thomas Simms v. J.T. Shartle

September 28, 2012

WILLIE THOMAS SIMMS, PETITIONER,
v.
J.T. SHARTLE, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Renee Marie Bumb United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter comes before this Court upon Petitioner's payment of the applicable filing fee of $5.00, which: (a) was preceded by his submission of a Section 2241 habeas petition ("Petition"), see Docket Entry No. 1; and (b) was followed by Petitioner's filing of his amended Section 2241 petition ("Supplement") and, shortly thereafter, a letter operating as an additional supplement ("Letter"), see Docket Entries Nos. 4 and 5, and it appearing that:

1. Since the Petition arrived unaccompanied by Petitioner's filing fee or his in forma pauperis application, this Court denied Petitioner in forma pauperis status and directed Petitioner to cure that deficiency of his application. See Docket Entry No. 3. Petitioner duly complied by paying the applicable $5.00 filing fee. See Docket Entry dated August 17, 2012.

2. The Petition, a 140-page submission, see Docket Entries Nos. 1, 1-1 and 2, asserts a panoply of challenges. See, generally, id. The best this Court can gather from that initial voluminous submission, it appears that Petitioner -- being a federal prisoner serving his term at the F.C.I. Fairton, Fairton, New Jersey -- had been, at some point in time, admitted to the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") Substance Abuse Treatment Program administered at the F.C.I. Fairton, which program is commonly referred to as "Residential Drug Abuse Program" ("RDAP"), but -- as a result of a certain development, which might or might not have been a result of Petitioner's commission of a certain infraction or the prison officials' concerns about Petitioner's mental health

-- Petitioner was evaluated by medical mental health professionals and, being found unsuitable for RDAP, was expelled from that program prior to his completion of it. See, generally, Docket Entry No. 1.

3. In addition, the Court surmises from the content of the Petition that Petitioner's alleged efforts to exhaust his challenges administratively is nowhere recorded in the BOP system, be it in terms of Petitioner's filings or BOP's review/denial of his challenges.

4. Notably, Petitioner's challenges to his removal from RDAP are coupled with several conditions-of-confinement-type claims asserting denial of access to the courts, retaliation, violation of his First Amendment rights, and violation of his Equal Protection rights.

5. Petitioner's Supplement, styled as an "amended petition," arrived after Petitioner's filing of his filing fee, alleges the same or similar claims (i.e., retaliation, tampering with legal mail, etc.). See Docket Entry No. 4. Petitioner's latest submission, a letter inquiring about the status of this case, further elaborated on the same civil rights challenges, re-asserting undue tampering with Petitioner's legal mail. See Docket Entry No. 5.

6. "Habeas corpus petitions must meet heightened pleading requirements," McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 666 (1994), because Habeas Rule 2(c) requires a petition to "state the facts supporting each ground" and "state the relief requested." 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c), applicable to § 2241 through Rule 1(b). Importantly, pro se litigants are: (a) not expected to make legal arguments (especially if such arguments strive to teach the courts law) because Habeas Rule 2(c) merely requires a petition to "specify all the grounds for relief," id.; and (b) not allowed to submit voluminous filings asserting multitudes of claims "conflated into numerous Hydra-like umbrella challenges." Samha v. Lagana, Civil Action No. 11-4943 (SRC) (DNJ), Docket Entry No. 2, at 1 (quoting Murakush Caliphate of Amexem Inc. v. New Jersey, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51887, at *69 (D.N.J. May 13, 2011) Therefore, Petitioner's original 140-page Petition, being unduly voluminous, violates the requirements of Rule 2(d). His supplement, too, fails to meet the pleading obligations under Rule 2(c).

7. In addition, to the extent Petitioner wishes to assert claims alleging retaliation, denial of access to the courts, tampering with legal mail, violation of his Equal Protection rights, etc., none of these challenges can be litigated in the habeas proceedings at bar. Federal law provides two avenues of relief to prisoners: a petition for habeas corpus and a civil rights complaint. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004). "Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus . . . [while] requests for relief turning on circumstances of confinement [fall within the realm of] a § 1983 action."*fn1 Id. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained the distinction between the availability of civil rights relief and the availability of habeas relief as follows:

[W]henever the challenge ultimately attacks the "core of habeas" - the validity of the continued conviction or the fact or length of the sentence -a challenge, however denominated and regardless of the relief sought, must be brought by way of a habeas corpus petition. Conversely, when the challenge is to a condition of confinement such that a finding in plaintiff's favor would not alter his sentence or undo his conviction, an action under § 1983 is appropriate.

Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 542 (3d Cir. 2002). Therefore, a prisoner is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus only if he "seek[s] to invalidate the duration of [his] confinement - either directly through an injunction compelling speedier release or indirectly through a judicial determination that necessarily implies the unlawfulness of the [government's] custody." See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81 (2005). In contrast, if a judgment in the prisoner's favor would not affect the fact or duration of the prisoner's incarceration, habeas relief is unavailable and a civil complaint is the appropriate form of remedy. See, e.g., Ganim v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 235 F. App'x 882 (3rd Cir. 2007) (holding that district court lacks jurisdiction under § 2241 to entertain prisoner's challenge to his transfer between federal prisons); Bronson v. Demming, 56 F. App'x 551, 553-54 (3rd Cir. 2002) (habeas relief was unavailable to inmate seeking release from disciplinary segregation to general population).

Correspondingly, because Petitioner's successful completion of the Fairton RDAP could allow Petitioner a speedier release (by reducing his term of imprisonment), that -- but only that -- aspect of Petitioner's challenges can be litigated in the instant habeas matter. All other Petitioner's claims, be they based on his allegations about retaliation or violation of his Equal Protection rights, or if they assert denial of access to the courts, or tampering with his legal mail, etc., should be raised by means of a new and separate action commenced by Petitioner's filing of a civil complaint accompanied by Petitioner's $350 filing fee or his duly executed in forma pauperis application.*fn2

All Petitioner's pleadings in this matter, including Petitioner's re-amended petition, which Petitioner will be allowed to file, had to be and -- in the future -- should be limited solely to clear and concise statements of the facts ...


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