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Taylor v. Warden Allendale Correctional Institution

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 26, 2015

Dion O. Taylor, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Allendale Correctional Institution, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

PAIGE J. GOSSETT, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Dion O. Taylor ("Taylor"), a self-represented state prisoner, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. This matter comes before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.) for a Report and Recommendation on the respondent's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (ECF No. 13.) Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Taylor was advised of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the respondent's motion. (ECF No. 14.) Taylor filed a response in opposition. (ECF No. 20.) Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the record in this case, the court concludes that the respondent's motion to dismiss should be denied.

BACKGROUND

Taylor filed his Petition on the standard form used by prisoners to seek relief from a state sentence or conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1.) The Petition alleged due process violations associated with a prison disciplinary conviction on April 25, 2013 for threatening to inflict harm on a prison employee. (Id.) Taylor indicated that the conviction resulted in a one-year period of segregated confinement, the loss of credits for good conduct, and the loss of other privileges. (Id. at 1, 14.) Taylor asserted exhaustion of administrative remedies through the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. (Id. at 5.)

Because the Petition challenged the execution of Taylor's sentence, rather than the underlying state conviction and/or sentence, the court issued an order advising Taylor that his case would be construed as one filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (ECF No. 6.) The order provided Taylor an opportunity to contest such recharacterization and further directed Taylor to submit his claims on the standard form used to seek habeas relief under § 2241. (Id. at 2.) Taylor did not object to the recharacterization of his Petition and submitted an Amended Petition to the court.[1] (ECF No. 8.) On July 21, 2014 the court issued an order: (1) construing the Amended Petition as one filed pursuant to § 2241; (2) authorizing service of process; and (3) directing the respondent to file an answer or response. (ECF No. 11.)

DISCUSSION

A. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) examines whether the pleading fails to state facts upon which jurisdiction can be founded. It is the petitioner's burden to prove jurisdiction, and the court is to "regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

B. Habeas Corpus Generally

Habeas corpus proceedings are the proper mechanism for a prisoner to challenge the legality or duration of his custody. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973). However, circuit courts are split regarding whether a state prisoner should proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 or 28 U.S.C. § 2254 when challenging the execution of a state sentence.[2] Compare White v. Lambert, 370 F.3d 1002, 1005 n.1 (9th Cir. 2004) (adopting and discussing the majority view which holds that § 2254 is the exclusive vehicle for a state prisoner seeking habeas corpus relief, even when the underlying conviction is not being challenged), overruled on other grounds by Hayward v. Marshall, 603 F.3d 546, 553 (9th Cir. 2010), with Hamm v. Saffle, 300 F.3d 1213, 1216 (10th Cir. 2002) (allowing a prisoner to challenge the execution of a state sentence under § 2241). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has acknowledged the split of authority, but does not appear to have taken a definitive stance regarding the issue to date. See Gregory v. Coleman, 218 F.Appx. 266, 267 (4th Cir. 2007) (noting the majority view and acknowledging that the district court's order construing the petitioner's § 2241 petition as an untimely filed § 2254 petition was a "debatable" procedural ruling); see also Waddell v. Dep't of Corr., 680 F.3d 384, 386 n.1 (4th Cir. 2012) (analyzing sentence calculation claim under § 2254, without discussion of split).

C. Discussion

The respondent argues that this court lacks jurisdiction over Taylor's § 2241 Amended Petition and should dismiss this case because, under the majority view, a state prisoner's challenge to the execution of a state imposed sentence is cognizable only under § 2254. (See Respt.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. to Dismiss at 2, ECF No. 13-1 at 2.) The respondent asserts that the majority of judges within this judicial district have adopted the majority view and cites cases in support of this position. (Id. at 2, 4-6.)

In his response in opposition to the respondent's motion, Taylor argues in favor of this court's jurisdiction over his § 2241 Amended Petition. (Petr.'s Resp. Opp'n at 4, ECF No. 20 at 4.) Taylor further argues that the court should "allow the judgment of the relief of the Great Writ, ' even if by the more stringent section 2254 standard, if deemed appropriate." (Id.) Taylor indicates that he was not aware that the court's recharacterization of the action as one brought pursuant to § 2241 could subject the case to dismissal for lack of federal jurisdiction. (Id.) Taylor further asserts that he is not "in any way" attempting to "purposely circumvent the requirements of habeas corpus." (Id.)

The issue of whether § 2241 or § 2254 is the proper procedural vehicle for Taylor to challenge his prison disciplinary proceeding and conviction remains an open question in this circuit. Moreover, while some judges within this district have adopted the majority view, others have not. Compare, e.g., Lisenby v. Cartledge, C/A No. 5:14-1546-DCN, 2015 WL 1146497, at *3 (D.S.C. Mar. 23, 2015) (adopting report and recommendation for summary judgment in favor of the respondent and recharacterizing a state prisoner's § 2241 petition challenging a disciplinary conviction and loss of good conduct credit as one brought pursuant to § 2254); with Eaddy v. Pate, C/A No. 5:13-2932-RBH, 2015 WL 727941, at *5 n.3 (D.S.C. Feb. 19, 2015) (adopting report and recommendation finding the state prisoner's § 2241 sentence calculation claim unexhausted and noting that "challenges to prison disciplinary actions and calculations of good time credits may be petitioned under § 2241, [however, ] some authority provides that state prisoners who seek federal habeas relief must proceed under § 2254") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).[3] But no authority suggests that this procedural puzzle implicates the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Under the majority view, Taylor's claims would be cognizable under § 2254, even if the court were to agree that Taylor's Amended Petition has been improperly construed as more appropriately brought under § 2241. As the respondent has failed to demonstrate that the court lacks jurisdiction over Taylor's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the court concludes that the respondent should be required to address the merits of Taylor's grounds for habeas relief, regardless of how the petition is characterized.[4]

RECOMMENDATION

For the foregoing reasons, the court recommends that the respondent's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (ECF No. 13) be denied.


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