United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ALBERT W. HATCHER, JR., Petitioner,
E. ESPINOZA, Respondent.
B. KUGLER, U.S.D.J.
Albert W. Hatcher (“Petitioner”), an inmate
incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, filed an Amended Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241
(hereinafter referred to as “Petition”),
purporting to challenge aspects of his incarceration. (ECF
No. 5). 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
fact that Petitioner is serving his sentence at FCI Fort-Dix.
The Court gleans from the Petition that the State of Virginia
charged Petitioner with buying and receiving stolen goods and
then with contempt for failure to appear at the corresponding
arraignment, in 2017. (ECF No. 5, at 2, 12-14). The State of
Virginia then issued detainers and “fugitive
files” for Petitioner's failure to appear at
arraignment. (Id. at 4).
remaining procedural history is unclear, but the gravamen of
the Petition is that the Federal Bureau of Prisons appears to
have raised Petitioner's custody level as a result of
Petitioner's active state charges. (Id. at 6).
Petitioner takes issue with his custody level, emphasizing
that his co-defendant, Alexandra Hatcher, initially served
her sentence at a lower security level, and is now serving
her sentence at two security levels lower than the
Petitioner, even though they were “sentenced for the
same federal crime.” (Id.).
contends that his state charges are “double jeopardy of
the Federal charges for which [he] is currently serving [a]
sentence” and that all of “the evidence is
against Alexandra Hatcher.” (Id. at 7).
Petitioner had attempted to have the state courts or the
federal prosecutor on his case resolve the state charges but
received no response to his requests. (Id. at 6).
February 21, 2019, Petitioner filed the instant Petition,
requesting that this Court “clear [the] pre-trial State
detainer(s) for failure to appear for a court hearing.”
(Id. at 4).
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
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) (citation omitted). “[U]nless the claim would
fall within the ‘core of habeas' and require sooner
release if resolved in the plaintiff's 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 validity of untried state charges
and detainers against him, which raise his Federal Bureau of
Prisons custody level. Among other things, a prisoner's
custody level affects where he may serve his sentence, which
impacts the conditions of his 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
differently, because a finding in Petitioner's favor,
such as the dismissal of his state charges, detainers, and
fugitive files “would not alter [the length of] his
sentence or undo his conviction, ” he cannot proceed by
habeas petition. Leamer, 288 F.3d at 542; see,
e.g., Levi, 353 Fed.Appx. at 682.
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 Petitioner ...