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Alexis v. Ortiz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 5, 2019

VINCENT P. ALEXIS, Petitioner,
DAVID ORTIZ, Respondent.


          ROBERT B. KUGLER, United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Vincent P. Alexis (“Petitioner”), an inmate incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, filed a 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 and seeking compassionate release. (ECF No. 1). 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).[1] For the following reasons, the Court will deny the Petition without prejudice to any right Petitioner may have to bring a civil rights action, declaratory judgment action, motion to amend, or a motion to reduce sentence, in an appropriate court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court will construe the allegations in the Petition as true for the purpose of this Opinion. As Petitioner is intimately familiar with the facts of his case, and because the Court has set forth the background of this case in an earlier Opinion in one of Petitioner's other cases, the Court will only set forth the background necessary to address the instant Petition. (Civ. No. 18-2099, ECF No. 5).

         This case arises from Petitioner's medical issues and treatment thereof while serving his sentence at FCI Fort-Dix. As discussed more thoroughly in the Court's earlier Opinion, Petitioner became ill with a septic sinus infection in 2014 and had “flare-ups” of his chronic Lyme disease in 2015. Id. Petitioner, who possesses a doctorate in veterinary medicine, was able to diagnose himself and request the proper treatment. Despite those requests, prison staff refused to provide proper treatment, delayed necessary medical treatment, prevented him from receiving medical treatment, or some combination of the three, which required him to undergo a number of surgical procedures. As a result of those failures and complications resulting therefrom, Petitioner experienced and continues to experience, substantial pain and suffering, as well as permanent injuries.

         Petitioner filed a civil complaint on February 14, 2018, and this Court dismissed the complaint as time-barred but provided Petitioner with leave to file a motion to amend the complaint. (Civ. No. 18-2099, ECF Nos. 5, 6). That particular civil action is still pending in this Court.

         Thereafter, Petitioner filed the instant Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking specific medical examinations and treatment related to his medical issues, as well as an order for compassionate release. (ECF No. 1, at 8).


         Federal 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 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”).

         “Challenges 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).

         With those principles in mind, the Court finds that Petitioner's civil rights claims related to his medical care 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's challenges to his medical care or to the retaliations for complaining about his medical care, however, would not result in a speedier release, and thus do not sound in habeas corpus. E.g., Bonadonna v. United States, 446 Fed.Appx. 407, 409 (3d Cir. 2011); Cardenas v. Edwards, No. 17-13803, 2018 WL 2175776, at *2 (D.N.J. May 10, 2018).

         Stated differently, because a finding in Petitioner's favor on these claims, such as ordering his requested medical treatment or ordering Respondent to comply with certain medical recommendations “would not alter [the length of] his sentence or undo his conviction, ” he cannot proceed on this claim by habeas petition. Leamer, 288 F.3d at 542; see, e.g., Levi v. Ebbert, 353 Fed.Appx. 681, 681 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, Petitioner may only bring such claims via a new civil complaint or declaratory judgment action, or through a motion to amend in one of his related outstanding cases. See Bonadonna, 446 Fed.Appx. at 409. Accordingly, the Court will deny[2]Petitioner's civil rights claims without prejudice.

         Next, Petitioner contends that Respondent's refusal to move for compassionate release under the First Step Act of 2018, P.L. 115-391, § 603(b)(1), “requires” habeas intervention because the “refusal directly effects [sic] Alexis's detention adversely.” (ECF No. 1-2, at 2). Under the First Step Act which modified 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), a federal prisoner may now “file a motion for compassionate release after exhausting all administrative appeals of a refusal by the [Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”)] to bring such a motion on the prisoner's behalf.” E.g., Deffenbaugh v. Sullivan, No. 19-2049, 2019 WL 1779573, at *1 (E.D. N.C. Apr. 23, 2019).

         Here, Petitioner concedes that he has failed to exhaust his administrative appeals on this claim, “because the administrative remedy process was completed before [his] request for Compassionate Release.” (ECF No. 1, at 7-8). In essence, Petitioner contends that the Court should excuse his failure to exhaust because he had already completed the administrative remedy process on his ...

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