United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. KUGLER United States District Judge.
Robert Neil Sampson (“Petitioner”), an inmate
incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, filed a Petition for writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, purporting
to challenge aspects of his incarceration. The Court has
examined the Petition in accordance with Rule 4 of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases, applicable to § 2241 cases
through Rule 1(b). For the following reasons, the Court will
deny the Petition without prejudice to any right Petitioner
may have to bring a declaratory judgment or other civil
action in an appropriate court.
Court will construe the allegations in the Petition as true
for the purpose of this Opinion. This case arises from the
conditions of Petitioner's incarceration at FCI Fort-Dix.
On September 20, 2012, Officers from Prince George County,
Maryland, seized Petitioner pursuant to Arrest Warrant No.
5E0049412, from August 31, 2012. (ECF No. 1-4, at 2). A state
grand jury then indicted Petitioner on the same conduct and
returned a thirty-one-count indictment charging Petitioner
with carjacking and related offenses under County Court No.
CROE0049463. (ECF No. 1-4, at 2).
approximately five months in detention pending trial,
Petitioner submitted an omnibus speedy trial motion. In
response, the State successfully moved to declare all charges
under County Court No. CROE0049463 nol pros in lieu
of a federal request for prosecution, but the charges under
Arrest Warrant No. 5E0049412 remained active and untried,
with the speedy trial motions still pending. (ECF No. 1-3, at
2-3). Petitioner contends that the “remaining charges
appear to have served as a defacto detainer” for the
State of Maryland. (Id. at 3). On February 9, 2013,
Petitioner appeared before the Federal District Court of
Maryland, Greenbelt Division, on the “same
conduct” as the untried and nol pros charges.
remaining procedural history is unclear, but the gravamen of
the Petition is that the presentence report showed that
Petitioner had active state charges. After sentencing, the
Federal Bureau of Prisons appears to have raised
Petitioner's custody level as a result of those active
charges. In turn, because “Petitioner's custody
level is higher, he cannot participate in, or receive the
benefits of some institutional programming. Particularly
programs provided at other institutions with a lower custody
level requirement.” (ECF No. 1-4, at 5-6).
level of the Maryland state courts, Petitioner sought to
remove the untried state criminal charges, but the Petition
does not specify why those courts denied his requests, and
whether the denials occurred before or after his federal
sentencing hearing. (ECF No. 1-4, at 6).
5, 2018, Petitioner filed the instant petition, requesting
that this Court order the Maryland state courts to dismiss
the untried charges or alternatively, to “perform
whatever records housekeeping that would remedy the open and
pending charge status” on those untried charges, so
that Petitioner may enjoy a lower custody level. (ECF No.
1-4, at 8).
district courts have a pre-service duty under Rule 4 of the
Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States
District Courts, which is applicable to § 2241 petitions
pursuant to Rule 1(b), to screen and summarily dismiss a
habeas petition prior to any answer or other pleading by the
state when the petition “appears legally insufficient
on its face.” McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S.
849, 856 (1994); see also United States v. Thomas,
221 F.3d 430, 437 (3d Cir. 2000) (explaining that courts may
dismiss petitions where “none of the grounds alleged in
the petition would entitle [the petitioner] to relief).
to the validity of any confinement or to particulars
affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus;
requests for relief turning on circumstances of confinement
may be presented in a § 1983 [or Bivens]
action.” Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750
(2004) (internal citation omitted). “[U]nless the claim
would fall within the ‘core of habeas' and require
sooner release if resolved in the plaintiffs favor, a prison
confinement action . . . is properly brought under §
1983” or a Bivens action. Leamer v.
Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 542 (3d Cir. 2002).
those principles in mind, the Court finds that
Petitioner's claims do not sound in habeas. A petition
for writ of habeas corpus seeks to challenge the fact or
length of confinement. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475, 491 (1973). Petitioner, however, does not attack
the duration of his incarceration nor does he seek release
Petitioner challenges the existence of untried state
charges against him, which raise his Federal Bureau of
Prisons custody level. In turn, that increased custody level
reduces Petitioner's quality of life and ability to
access institutional programs, i.e., his conditions
of confinement. The Third Circuit has explicitly held,
however, that claims concerning the determination of a
prisoner's custody level “do not lie at the
‘core of habeas' and, therefore are not cognizable
in a § 2241 petition.” Levi v. Ebbert,
353 Fed.Appx. 681, 682 (3d Cir. 2009) (explaining that courts
should not engage in habeas corpus review of custody
classification claims because they do not challenge the
validity of a conviction or the length of one's
turn, because Petitioner's custody level claims are not
cognizable in a habeas petition, he must proceed by way of a
civil rights or declaratory judgment action. Leamer,
288 F.3d at 542-43. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss
Petitioner's § 2241 Petition without prejudice to
any right ...