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Burch v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

May 21, 2014

Amy Dioen Burch, Petitioner,
United States of America, Respondent. No. 4:13-cv-01048-TLW


TERRY L. WOOTEN, Chief District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court for consideration of the pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed by Petitioner Amy Dioen Burch. For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses the petition.

I. Factual and Procedural History

On June 20, 2011, Petitioner pled guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment, which charged her with Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute and Distribution of 280 Grams or More of Cocaine Base. On September 20, 2011, the Court sentenced her to 78 months imprisonment, [1] followed by a five-year term of supervised release, and Judgment was entered on September 29, 2011. (Doc. #441.) No notice of appeal was filed.

On January 13, 2012, Petitioner filed a § 2255 motion. (Doc. #528.) After the Government moved for summary judgment, (Doc. #567, 568), and Petitioner responded, (Doc. #578, 589), the Court granted in part and denied in part the § 2255 motion, (Doc. #661). Specifically, as to Petitioner's claim that her attorney failed to file an appeal on her behalf, the Court granted relief by vacating and then immediately reinstating her conviction. (Doc. #661 at 5.) The Court dismissed the remainder of her claims without prejudice. ( Id. )

From this newly-reinstated conviction, Petitioner's newly-appointed attorney filed a notice of appeal, (Doc. #666), and then an Anders brief in the Fourth Circuit, (4th Cir. Doc. #16).[2] Petitioner then filed an 18-page pro se brief in support of her appeal. (4th Cir. Doc. #24-1.) The Fourth Circuit affirmed the conviction, finding that her 78-month sentence was reasonable, there were no significant procedural errors, and the sentence was substantively reasonable. United States v. Burch, 507 F.Appx. 276, 276-77 (4th Cir. 2013) (unpublished). The Fourth Circuit also examined the entire record, including the issues Petitioner raised in her pro se brief, and found no meritorious issues for appeal. Id. at 277.

On April 16, 2013, [3] Petitioner filed this motion under § 2255, stating two grounds for relief: (1) that she was attributed the wrong amount of drugs for sentencing purposes; and (2) her appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to properly investigate her case and discover that she had been sentenced under the incorrect drug weight, and her trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the drug amount during the plea hearing and failing to object to the drug amount attributed to her in the PSR. (Doc. #732 at 4-5.) On April 25, 2013, the Government filed a Response and a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. #736, 737.) On May 15, 2013, Petitioner filed a Response to the summary judgment motion. (Doc. #743.) This matter is now ripe for decision.

II. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

Title 28, Section 2255 of the United States Code provides that a prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court may file a motion in the court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. A petitioner is entitled to relief under § 2255 if he proves by a preponderance of the evidence one of the following: (1) that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958) (per curiam). "The scope of review of non-constitutional error is more limited than that of constitutional error; a non-constitutional error does not provide a basis for collateral attack unless it involves a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice, ' or is inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure.'" Leano v. United States, 334 F.Supp.2d 885, 890 (D.S.C. 2004) (quoting United States v. Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d 490, 495-96 (4th Cir. 1999)).

In deciding a § 2255 motion, a court need not hold a hearing if "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). The Court has thoroughly reviewed the motions, files, and records in this case, liberally construing Petitioner's pro se filings, and finds that no hearing is necessary.

III. Standard of Review

Petitioner brings this motion pro se. Courts are required to construe liberally pleadings filed by pro se litigants to allow for the development of potentially meritorious claims. See Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam). These pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). However, "[t]he special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view such pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate. Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed." Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

The Government filed a motion for summary judgment. "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). At the summary judgment stage, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw ...

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