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Musgrove v. Ortiz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 24, 2019

JEFFREY L. MUSGROVE, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN DAVID ORTIZ, Respondent.

          Julie A. McGrain, Esq. Office of the Federal Public Defender Counsel for Petitioner.

          Jessica Rose O'Neill, Esq. John Andrew Ruymann, Esq. Office of the United States Attorney Counsel for Respondent

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Petitioner Jeffrey L. Musgrove (“Petitioner”), a prisoner presently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (the “Petition”). ECF No. 1. Petitioner's sole grievance raised in the Petition is that he has been confined in excess of his maximum term because the Federal Bureau of Prisons has failed to recalculate his good time credits under the new method provided in the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-015, 132 Stat. 015 (2018). ECF No. 1. In light of Petitioner's allegations, the Court ordered an answer to the Petition and appointed counsel for Petitioner. ECF Nos. 3, 4. Respondent filed an Answer to the Petition (the “Answer”). ECF No. 7. Petitioner filed a reply to the Answer (the “Reply”). ECF No. 8. The Petition is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated below, the Petition will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was originally sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on July 9, 2010 and is serving a 130-month term of imprisonment for drug distribution and firearms related offenses. ECF No. 1. Petitioner's current projected release date is May 27, 2019, which includes credit for good conduct time. Id. Petitioner seeks recalculation of his sentence as it relates to the calculation of his good time credits as a result of the passage of the First Step Act. Id. Petitioner contends that the recalculation of his good time credits would have resulted in a release date of March 23, 2019 if the Bureau of Prisons utilized the formula for calculating good time credits contained in the First Step Act. Id. In support of his argument, Petitioner argues that the new formula for calculating good time credits outlined in the First Step Act was intended and should be construed to be implemented immediately and not delayed 210 days like certain other provisions contained in the Act. See ECF No. 8.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         “Section 2241 is the only statute that confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition of a federal prisoner who is challenging not the validity but the execution of his sentence.” Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 2001). The Court has jurisdiction over the Petition and venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 because the Petition challenges the execution of his federal sentence and he is presently confined in the District. See Coady, 251 F.3d at 485; Zayas v. INS, 311 F.3d 247, 256 (3d Cir. 2002) (identifying “applications challenging the manner in which a valid federal sentence is carried out” as an example of a “categor[y] of habeas petitions filed under § 2241”).

         B. Analysis

         The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 modified the rate at which federal prisoners could earn good time credit, providing in 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) that prisoners could receive “credit toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment.” In implementing this statutory provision, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) developed a method of calculation that counted 54 days against time actually served as opposed to the sentence as imposed, which, in practical effect, results in federal prisoners only receiving 47 days of credit for each year of the term of imprisonment. The BOP's interpretation of the good time credit provision in 18 U.C.S. § 3624 was challenged but ultimately upheld as a reasonable interpretation of the statute by the Supreme Court of the United States in Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S. 474 (2010). Since then, eligible federal prisoners receive 47 days of good time credit for each year of the term of imprisonment.

         The First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-015, 132 Stat. 015 (2018), signed into law on December 21, 2018, provides comprehensive federal criminal justice reform by, inter alia, creating a new risk and needs assessment system to provide appropriate programming for prisoners and amending the good conduct time statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), to specify the method of calculation to be utilized by the BOP for the pre-existing good time credit provision. Under the method of calculation specified by the First Step Act, federal prisoners will receive 54 days of good time credit for each year of imprisonment as measured by the full sentence as originally imposed.

         Petitioner seeks to receive the benefit of the First Step Act's amendment to § 3624(b)'s calculation of good time credits so that he receives 54 days instead of the 47 days per year, which would make him eligible for release immediately. For the reasons explained below, however, Petitioner cannot obtain such relief as the new method of calculating good time credits is not yet effective.[1]

         The amendment of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) to specify the method of calculation for good time credits is contained within Section 102(b) of the Act. At the end of Section 102(b), the law provides a delayed effective date for “this subsection” ...


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