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Johnson v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 5, 2014

BRAHEEM JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

OPINION

RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Petitioner's § 2241 petition ("Petition") which: (a) named the United States as Respondent; and (b) arrived unaccompanied by Petitioner's filing fee or in forma pauperis application. See Docket Entries Nos. 1.

The only proper respondent to a habeas petition challenging an inmate's current confinement is the warden of the facility where the inmate is being held. Accordingly, the warden of FCI Fairton is the only proper Respondent in this action, while the United States should be dismissed, as Respondent in this matter, and such dismissal should be with prejudice. See Rumsfeld v. Padilla , 542 U.S. 426(2004); Yi v. Maucrans , 24 F.3d 500 (3d Cir. 1994).

Moreover, a prisoner's legal obligation to prepay his filing fee or obtain in forma pauperis ("IFP") status is automatically incurred by the very act of initiating his suit. See Hairston v. Gronolsky , 2009 U.S.App. LEXIS 22770, at *5 (3d Cir. Oct. 15, 2009) (citing Hall v. Stone , 170 F.3d 706, 707 (7th Cir. 1999)).[1]

Since Petitioner commenced this matter without submitting his filing fee (or his IFP application) and named the Respondent entitled to a prejudicial dismissal of Petitioner's claims, this action has, generally, become subject to termination. See Papotto v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co. , 731 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2013) ("administrative closings [are not final dismissals on the merits; rather, they] are a practical tool used by courts to prune overgrown dockets and are... useful in circumstances in which a case, though not dead, is likely to remain moribund").

Here, however, Petitioner maintains that his Petition is of extreme urgency, since this Court's enforcement of the directive issued by Petitioner's state judge would result in Petitioner's immediate release from confinement. See Docket Entry No. 1, at 4. Even though, as the analysis below demonstrates, Petitioner's procedural and substantive positions are unavailing, this Court will: (a) dispense with administrative termination of this matter; (b) direct the Clerk to terminate the United States as Respondent and add the warden of FCI Fairton; and (c) allow Petitioner fifteen days from the date of entry of the Order accompanying this Opinion to submit his filing fee or duly executed IFP application.[2]

Petitioner asserts that

[o]n January 6, 2007[, he] was arrested and charge[d with a firearm offense] by the [S]tate.[3] He was released on bail on] Jan[uary] 8, [20]07. On Jan[urary] 14, [20]07[, ] Petitioner was arrest[ed] again by the [S]tate [this time, on the charge of] robbery. On Jan[uary] 24, [20]07, [that robbery] case was dismissed. [On] Jan[uary] 30, [2007, ] Petitioner was arrested again [on the charge related to another] robbery. [Petitioner did not make bail from that point on.] On Feb[ruary] 15, [20]07[, ] Petitioner was charge[d with] three other robberies that occurred on [August 12, 2006, December 10, 2006 and January 6, 2007].... [O]n May 21, 2007[, ] a [federal] warrant was [longed against him. O]n June 12, 2007[, he was] moved... from the Philadelphia County Jail [where he was awaiting his state sentencing to another facility, which accommodated Petitioner's federal proceedings.] On December 21[, ] 2007[, ] Petitioner was [federally] sentenced... to 18 months [of] imprisonment. On December 23, 2007, Petitioner was returned back to Philadelphia County Jail. On March 28, 2008, Petitioner was sentence[d] by the [Commonwealth] of Pennsylvania[] to 7-15 years. The [Pennsylvania] judge [expressed his wishes that Petitioner's state sentence would] run concurrent[ly] with [his f]ederal sentence. On February 21, 2014 [that is, six months prior to commencement of the instant matter, Petitioner was paroled from his state term into federal custody and started serving his federal term].

Docket Entry No. 1, at 2.

Petitioner conceded awareness of the exhaustion requirement, see id. at 3, but alleged that exhaustion would be "futile" since "a substantial amount of time [would be] necessary to complete the administrative process, " and "if [this] Court] grants his... [P]etition, [he would attain] immediate release." Id . at 3-4. He also maintains that he "is not seeking a time credit, ' but is seeking a sentencing adjustment, '" and relies on Setser v. United States , 132 S.Ct. 1463 (2012). Id . at 5.

This position is deficient procedurally and substantively. A criminal complaint was filed against Petitioner in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 21, 2007. See United States v. Johnson, Crim. Action No. 07-0384, Docket Entry No. 1 (PBT) (E.D. Pa.) (charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm). He was indicted on that charge on July 10, 2007, see id., Docket Entry No. 10, and pled guilty on September 4, 2007. See id., Docket Entries No. 14 and 15. Honorable Petrese B. Tucker ("Judge Tucker") held his plea hearing on September 21, 2007, see id., Docket Entry No. 18, and issued the judgment of conviction on January 9, 2008. See id., Docket Entry No. 23. No statement in that judgment of conviction directed concurrence of Petitioner's federal term with his then-yet-to-be-imposed state term or expressed any preference for execution of Petitioner's federal term. See id.

This fact renders Petitioner's substantive position facially unavailing. "The authority to calculate a federal prisoner's release date for the sentence imposed, and to provide credit for pre-sentence detention and good conduct, is delegated to the Attorney General, who acts through the [Bureau of Prisons ('BOP')]." Armstrong v. Grondolsky , 341 F.Appx. 828, 830 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing United States v. Wilson , 503 U.S. 329, 334-35 (1992)). "In calculating the sentence, the BOP determines[:] (1) when the federal sentence commenced, and (2) whether there are any credits to which the prisoner may be entitled." Nieves v. Scism, 2013 U.S.App. LEXIS 10989, at *3 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3585).[4]

The key point of the BOP's calculation is the well-settled principle that a federal prisoner cannot receive a so-called "double credit, " that is, a credit for the time already credited against his state sentence. See Wilson , 503 U.S. at 337 (in enacting § 3585(b), "Congress made clear that a defendant could not receive a double credit for his detention time"). That said, a federal prisoner is entitled to a so-called "prior custody credit" for the time spent in detention before his federal sentence began if that this period has not already been credited against his other sentence. See 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b). In addition, the BOP may take an administrative action creating a "credit-like" effect. See, e.g., Barden v. Keohane , 921 F.2d 476, 483 (3d Cir. 1990). The Barden analysis is as follows:

Under Section 3621(b), the BOP has discretion - i.e., the BOP may but not must - designate, [either prospectively] or nunc pro tunc, a state facility where a prisoner [is serving or] served his state sentence as a facility where the prisoner [is or] was serving his federal sentence.... The BOP may exercise such discretion only if the state court clearly indicated its intention to have the prisoner's state sentence run concurrently with the prisoner's already imposed federal sentence. Once the BOP determines such clear intent on behalf of the state court, the BOP: (1) is obligated to exercise its discretion by considering the prisoner's application in light of the factors stated in § 3621(b); but (2) is not obligated to grant the prisoner's ...

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