United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Lorme Kelly Davis, F.C.I. Fort Dix, Fort Dix, NJ, Petitioner pro se.
NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.
Petitioner Lorme Kelly Davis, a prisoner currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey, has submitted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging his imprisonment pursuant to a federal sentence imposed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. See U.S. v. Davis, Crim. No. 05-10018 (S.D. Fla.) The sole respondent is Warden Jordan R. Hollingsworth.
For the following reasons, this Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction over this Petition and will transfer it to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Petitioner asserts that in May 2005, he was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard "in foreign waters, " after which he was prosecuted under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act ("MDLEA"), 46 U.S.C. App. § 1901 et seq. (Docket Entry No. 1, Memorandum, at 3.) In connection with his guilty plea in that prosecution, Petitioner made a factual proffer in which he admitted the following: that on May 20, 2005, he was aboard a "go-fast" vessel "dead in the water" approximately 180 nautical miles northwest of Colombia near the Serrana Bank in the Caribbean Sea; that a boarding team from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter GALLITAN requested and was granted a Statement of No Objection for Right of Visitation Boarding; that he claimed Colombian citizenship at the time the "go-fast" vessel was boarded; that the individuals aboard the "go-fast" vessel did not claim any nationality for the vessel nor did the vessel display any visible name, homeport, or flag; that the U.S. Coast Guard boarding team recovered 60 bales (each bale containing 25 individually-wrapped packages) testing positive for cocaine and weighing a total of 3909.11 pounds; and that on May 27, 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HARRIETT LANE transported him to Key West, Florida, in the Southern District of Florida, the point of entry where he entered the United States. See U.S. v. Davis, Crim. No. 05-10018 (S.D. Fla) (Docket Entry No. 38, Factual Proffer).
Pursuant to his guilty plea, Petitioner was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of 46 U.S.C. App. § 1903(j), and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 135 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. See U.S. v. Davis, Crim. No. 05-10018 (S.D. Fla) (Docket Entries No. 37, Plea Agreement; No. 73, Judgment). On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence, pursuant to U.S. v. Booker , 543 U.S. 220 (2005), and remanded for resentencing. See U.S. v. Davis, No. 06-11368 (11th Cir.). On November 8, 2007, Petitioner was re-sentenced to the same sentence of 135 months' imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. See U.S. v. Davis, Crim. No. 05-10018 (S.D. Fla.) (Docket Entry No. 102, Amended Judgment). On June 3, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Amended Judgment. See U.S. v. Davis, No. 07-15291 (11th Cir.). The Docket of proceedings in the Southern District of Florida does not reflect that Petitioner ever filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Here, Petitioner has filed a Petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 asserting two grounds for relief: (1) that, based on new case law out of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the United States had no jurisdiction to arrest him, and (2) that he is illegally incarcerated because the trial court had no jurisdiction to impose sentence.
II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
United States Code Title 28, Section 2243 provides in relevant part as follows:
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.
A pro se pleading is held to less stringent standards than more formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). See also Higgs v. Attorney General of the U.S. , 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011) ("The obligation to liberally construe a pro se litigant's pleadings is well-established." (citing Estelle and Haines)). A pro se habeas petition and any supporting submissions must be construed liberally and with a measure of tolerance. See Royce v. Hahn , 151 F.3d 116, 118 (3d Cir. 1998); Lewis v. Attorney General , 878 F.2d 714, 721-22 (3d Cir. 1989); United States v. Brierley , 414 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 399 U.S. 912 (1970). Nevertheless, a federal district court can dismiss a habeas corpus petition if it appears from the face of the petition that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. See Lonchar v. Thomas , 517 U.S. 314, 320 (1996); Denny v. Schultz , 708 F.3d 140, 148 n.3 (3d Cir. 2013). See also 28 U.S.C. §§ 2243, 2255.
"It is axiomatic that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and as such are under a continuing duty to satisfy themselves of their jurisdiction before proceeding to the merits of any case." Packard v. Provident Nat. Bank , 994 F.2d 1039, 1049 (3d Cir.) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 946 (1993). See also Gunn v. Minton , 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013); Bender v. Williamsport Area School District , 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). Here, for the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain this § 2241 Petition.
As noted by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in In re Dorsainvil , 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997), a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 has been the "usual avenue" for federal prisoners seeking to challenge the legality of their confinement. See also Okereke v. United States , 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002); United States v. McKeithan , 437 F.Appx. 148, 150 (3d Cir. 2011); United States v. Walker , 980 F.Supp. 144, 145-46 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (challenges to a sentence as imposed should be brought under § 2255, while challenges to the manner in which a sentence is executed should be brought under § 2241). Motions under § 2255 ...