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Scott v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 27, 2014

HOWARD SCOTT, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner is a federal prisoner incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Petitioner is currently serving a sentence of 188 months imprisonment after he pled guilty in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina to one count of knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully possessing with the intent to distribute a quantity of heroin.

Petitioner is proceeding with a pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[1] On December 11, 2013, this matter was administratively terminated as petitioner had neither paid the filing fee nor submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis. On December 26, 2013, this Court received petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis. Accordingly, the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this matter. Petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted based on the information provided therein. For the following reasons, the habeas petition will be dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

Petitioner appealed his judgment and sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after the District of South Carolina entered judgment against him. On April 29, 2011, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment and sentence. See United States v. Scott, 426 F.Appx. 169 (4th Cir. 2011) (per curiam).[2]

On April 25, 2012, petitioner filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the District of South Carolina. ( See D.S.C. Crim. No. 09-991, Dkt. No. 67.) Petitioner raised ineffective assistance of counsel claims in that petition. On October 2, 2012, the District of South Carolina denied petitioner's § 2255 motion. ( See id. Dkt. Nos. 86 & 87.) Petitioner appealed and the Fourth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability and dismissed the appeal on January 23, 2013. See United States v. Scott, 506 F.Appx. 215 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam).

In December, 2013, this Court received the instant § 2241 habeas petition. Petitioner raises two claims in this habeas petition related to his criminal conviction and judgment in the District of South Carolina. First, he claims that his due process rights were violated due to incorrectly applying career offender status on petitioner under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Second, he claims that not all of elements of the charge were presented to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt because the drug amount was not listed in the indictment.

III. STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

With respect to screening the instant petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2243 provides in relevant part:

A court, justice or judge entertaining an application for a 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 thereto.

As petitioner is proceeding pro se, his petition is held to less stringent standards than those pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Rainey v. Varner, 603 F.3d 189, 198 (3d Cir. 2010) ("It is the policy of the courts to give a liberal construction to pro se habeas petitions.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); United States v. Otero, 502 F.3d 331, 334 (3d Cir. 2007) ("we construe pro se pleadings liberally.") (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Nevertheless, "a district court is authorized to dismiss a [habeas] petition summarily when it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court[.]" Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U.S. 314, 320 (1996).

IV. DISCUSSION

Petitioner is challenging the criminal conviction and sentence he received in the District of South Carolina in this § 2241 federal habeas action. Generally, a challenge to the validity of a federal conviction or sentence must be brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Jackman v. Shartle, 535 F.Appx. 87, 88 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (citing Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002)). This is generally true because § 2255 prohibits a district court from entertaining a challenge to a prisoner's federal ...


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