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Seaton v. Hollingsworth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 27, 2014

RONALD SEATON, Petitioner,
v.
JORDAN HOLLINGSWORTH, Respondent.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Petitioner was found guilty of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a felon. Petitioner received a sentence of 240 months imprisonment in 2005. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. On April 25, 2014, the Court administratively terminated this case as petitioner had not paid the filing fee and his application to proceed in forma pauperis was incomplete. 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 dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

Petitioner received a 240-month prison sentence from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2005 for his crimes. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence on appeal. See United States v. Seaton, 178 F.Appx. 172 (3d Cir. 2006).[1] Petitioner then filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 which was denied on the merits. ( See E.D. Pa. Crim. No. 04-49 Dkt. No. 81.) Petitioner subsequently filed two more § 2255 motions that were dismissed as second or successive as they lacked authorization from the Third Circuit to be filed. ( See E.D. Pa. Crim. No. 04-49 Dkt. No. 113 (discussing procedural history).)

Petitioner has now filed the instant habeas petition in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[2] He claims that his sentence is improper as the Court used the modified categorical approach to determine he was a career criminal for purposes of a sentencing enhancement finding.

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 sentence he received in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania 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 sentence through § 2241 unless the remedy under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective." See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Indeed, § 2255(e) states that:

[a]n 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 remedy by the motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). A § 2255 motion is "inadequate or ineffective, " which permits a petitioner to resort to a § 2241 petition, "only where the petitioner demonstrates that some limitation or procedure would prevent a § 2255 proceeding from affording him a full hearing and adjudication of his wrongful detention claim." Cradle v. U.S. ex rel. Miner, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). However, "[s]ection 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the sentencing court does not grant relief, the one-year statute of limitations has expired, or the petitioner is unable to meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of... § 2255." Cradle, 290 F.3d at 539 (citations omitted). "It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative." Id. at 538 (citation omitted). "The provision ...


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