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Arrendondo-Valenzuela v. Ortiz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 27, 2019

DAVID ORTIZ, Respondent.



         Petitioner Martin Arrendondo-Valenzuela is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss the Petition for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court will construe the factual allegations in the Petition as true for the purpose of this Opinion. In 2009, Petitioner pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. The United States District Court for the District of Kansas sentenced Petitioner to 360 months in prison.

         According to Petitioner, his trial counsel made a number of misrepresentations stating or implying that pleading guilty “would lead to an expedited deportation back to Mexico” without spending any more time in prison. (ECF No. 1-2, at 8, 12). Petitioner, who is unable to “grasp and comprehend the intricate details of the [English] language, ” relied on those false representations, such that they “induced” him into accepting the plea agreement. (Id. at 2, 4). Petitioner also maintains that he never received a Spanish translation of his plea agreement and questions the integrity or ability of the interpreter at his hearings. Ultimately, Petitioner “submits that had he understood that he was to be imprisoned for . . . thirty years, instead of deported, he would not have entered into a plea.” (Id. at 4).

         Petitioner appealed, and the Government moved to enforce the appeal waiver provision in the plea agreement. The Tenth Circuit granted the motion to enforce and dismissed the appeal. United States v. Arrendondo-Valenzuela, 380 Fed.Appx. 755, 756 (10th Cir. 2010). Thereafter, Petitioner filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 challenging, among other things, the voluntariness of his plea, and the sentencing court denied that motion. United States v. Arrendondo-Valenzuela, No. 10-2497, 2011 WL 13619, at *1 (D. Kan. Jan. 4, 2011). Petitioner also attempted to file a second § 2255 motion, and the sentencing court dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction as second or successive. United States v. Arrendondo-Valenzuela, 692 Fed.Appx. 504 (10th Cir. 2017). The Tenth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability and dismissed the matter. Id.

         Petitioner then filed the instant Petition, contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and challenging whether he entered into his plea agreement knowingly and voluntarily.


         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).


         Petitioner challenges his conviction and sentence in this 28 U.S.C. § 2241 federal habeas action. Generally, a person must bring a challenge to the validity of a federal conviction or sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Jackman v. Shartle, 535 Fed.Appx. 87, 88-89 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002)). This is generally true because § 2255 prohibits a district court from entertaining a challenge to a prisoner's federal sentence through § 2241 unless the remedy under § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Indeed, § 2255(e) states that:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such a court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by the motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

A § 2255 motion is “inadequate or ineffective, ” which permits a petitioner to resort to a § 2241 petition, “only where the petitioner demonstrates that some limitation or procedure would prevent a § 2255 proceeding from affording him a full hearing and adjudication of his wrongful detention claim.” Cradle v. U.S. ex rel. Miner, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002). However, § 2255 “is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the sentencing court does not grant relief, the one-year statute of limitations has expired, or the petitioner is unable to meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of . . . § 2255.” Id. at 539. “It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative.” Id. at 538. “The provision exists to ensure that petitioners have a fair opportunity to seek collateral relief, not to enable them to evade procedural requirements.” Id. at 539 (citing In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251-52 (3d Cir. 1997)).

         In Dorsainvil, the Third Circuit held that the remedy under § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective, ” permitting resort to § 2241 (a statute without timeliness or successive petition limitations), where a prisoner who previously had filed a § 2255 motion on other grounds “had no earlier opportunity to challenge his ...

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