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Cordova v. Hollingsworth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 24, 2014

PRUDENCIO CORDOVA, Petitioner,
v.
JORDAN HOLLINGSWORTH, Respondent.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner is a federal inmate currently incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. This Court previously administratively terminated this case due to petitioner's failure to pay the filing fee or submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Subsequently, petitioner paid the $5.00 filing fee. Therefore, the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this case. For the following reasons, the habeas petition will be summarily dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

In April, 2003, the United States Coast Guard seized petitioner in foreign waters seventyfive miles from the coast of Panama. Petitioner was prosecuted in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act ("MDLEA"), 46 U.S.C. § 70501, et seq. Petitioner ultimately pled guilty and was sentenced to 151 months imprisonment in 2003. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment in 2004. Thereafter, petitioner indicates that he filed a § 2255 motion that was denied in the Middle District of Florida. However, a review of the docket in the Middle District of Florida does not indicate that petitioner ever filed a § 2255 motion in that court.[1] Instead, a review of that docket indicates that petitioner filed a motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b)[2] in 2012 that the Middle District of Florida denied.

Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition in this Court in January, 2013. He argues that the Middle District of Florida lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence and that the actions he was convicted of are no longer criminal. Petitioner relies on a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Bellaizac-Hurtado, 700 F.3d 1245 (11th Cir. 2012) to support his arguments. Petitioner contends that he cannot raise these issues in a § 2255 motion and is therefore seeking relief in this Court pursuant to § 2241.

III. DISCUSSION

A. 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).

B. Jurisdiction

Generally, a challenge to the validity of a federal conviction or sentence must be brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See 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 sentence through § 2241 unless the remedy under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective." See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Section 2255(e) states that:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus 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 a court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the ...

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