United States District Court, D. South Carolina
James A. Spears, Petitioner,
Warden FCI Williamsburg, Respondent.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.
federal prison inmate appearing pro se filed the Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 2241. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. Â§ 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized
to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to
submit findings and recommendations to the district court.
See 28 U.S.C. Â§Â§ 1915(e), 1915A (as soon as possible
after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases
to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).
A. Spears ("Petitioner") is a federal prisoner, who
is currently confined at FCI-Williamsburg, part of the
Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") system located in
Salters, South Carolina. In the Â§ 2241 Petition now under
review, Petitioner asks this court to grant him injunctive
relief against prison officials arising from alleged
"harassment and retaliation" that he asserts he
suffered in 2015 at the hands of BOP employees at his former
place of confinement: FCI-Coleman in Florida. Pet. 8-12, ECF
No. 1. Petitioner alleges that due to "criminal
misconduct by staff, " id. at 12, he was
subjected to restrictive confinement resulting in lost
privileges, that his use of the BOP grievance system was
obstructed, and that he was transferred to a higher-security
prison in retaliation for his filing one food-related
grievance during his time of confinement at FCI-Coleman
Id. at 9. Petitioner asks this court to order an
investigation into the facts of his claims and to order that
several FCI-Coleman staff members' employment be
terminated. Id. at 10-12.
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review was made of the pro se Petition filed in this
case. The review was conducted pursuant to the procedural
provisions of 28 U.S.C. Â§Â§ 1915, 1915A, and the
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, and
in light of the following precedents: Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md.
House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v.
Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); Boyce v.
Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).
court is required to construe pro se petitions liberally.
Such pro se petitions are held to a less stringent standard
than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke,
574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district
court is charged with liberally construing a petition filed
by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a
potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). When a federal court is evaluating a
pro se petition the petitioner's allegations are assumed
to be true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630,
630 n.1 (4th Cir. 2003). The requirement of liberal
construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a
claim currently cognizable in a federal district court.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387,
391 (4th Cir. 1990).
this court is charged with screening Petitioner's lawsuit
to determine if "it plainly appears from the petition
and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled
to relief in the district court." Rule 4 of Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts; see Rule 1(b) of Rules Governing Section
2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (a district
court may apply these rules to a habeas corpus petition not
filed pursuant to Â§ 2254). Following the required initial
review, it is recommended that the Petition submitted in this
case should be summarily dismissed.
primary question presented by the Petition now under review
is whether Petitioner's claims may be reviewed by this
court as a habeas claim under 28 U.S.C. Â§ 2241 or whether it
should have been brought as constitutional-violation,
conditions-of-confinement claims under the Bivens
Doctrine. The two remedies are distinct, and
federal courts routinely consider whether a prisoner's
claim falls under habeas review or under the more general
federal civil-rights statute, 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983. See
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78-83 (2005)
(reviewing 32 years of United States Supreme Court case law
explaining which prisoner claims are appropriate for habeas
review). In 1973, the United States Supreme Court decided
that state prisoners cannot use a Â§ 1983 action to challenge
"the fact or duration" of their confinement.
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489 (1973)
(overruled on other grounds by Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477, 482 (1994)). The Supreme Court has since clarified
this principle to hold that, regardless of the relief sought
or conduct challenged, the proper remedy lies in habeas
corpus only if "success in [an] action would necessarily
demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its
duration." Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 82. The
Wilkinson Court held that in challenges to prison
procedures, "where success in the action would not
necessarily spell immediate or speedier release for the
prisoner, " Â§ 1983, not habeas corpus, is the
appropriate remedy. Id. at 81 (emphasis in
original); see Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S.
749 (2004) (Â§ 1983 complaint is proper vehicle to challenge
disciplinary convictions that did not result in loss of
earned sentence credits). Thus, the determinative question
for consideration in this report is whether success on
Petitioner's grievance-obstruction and retaliation claims
would "necessarily spell [his] immediate or speedier
release." Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 81;
see Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514
(2006) (federal court has an "independent
obligation" to investigate the limits of its
subject-matter jurisdiction); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) ("If
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.").
the relief requested would not affect the duration of
Petitioner's prison sentence, this court does not have
habeas corpus subject-matter jurisdiction to consider
Petitioner's claims under Â§ 2241. Even if the court
granted Petitioner's requests for orders directing the
BOP to investigate Petitioner's claims; to stop
"harassment and retaliation" against Petitioner for
his filing of a food-related grievance; and to terminate the
employment of several prison employees at FCI-Coleman, the
result would be that Petitioner would continue serving his
un-altered prison sentence-albeit in the general population
with all privileges restored. This result would have no
effect on the length of the sentence under which Petitioner
is incarcerated and he would not be released from BOP
custody. As such, no plausible habeas corpus claim is stated.
See, e.g., Bedenfield v. Lewisburg, 393
F.Appx. 32, 33 (3d Cir. 2010) (challenge to placement in
special management unit is a conditions-of-confinement claim
and not a habeas claim); Dyson v. Ross, No.
1:10-cv382-DLB(HC), 2010 WL 3516358, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Sept.
2, 2010) (claim challenging placement in special management
housing unit dismissed for lack of habeas jurisdiction);
Burnette v. Smith, No. CIV S-08-2178 DAD P, 2009 WL
667199, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2009) (petitioner's
confinement in segregated unit for security purposes and
prison's refusal to transfer petitioner is not proper
basis for a habeas action); Nostratis v. Sugrue, No.
1:09-CV-126 GSA HC, 2009 WL 462732 at *1 (E.D. Cal. Feb.23,
2009) (petitioner's claim that he should be transferred
to another facility should not be raised in a habeas
proceeding). Cf. Gadsen v. Owen, No.
2:11-03190-JFA-BHH, 2012 WL 3062658, at *5 (July 2, 2012)
(recommending dismissal of Â§ 2241 petition filed by federal
prisoner seeking transfer out of current non-credit-earning
classification; inability to earn credits is not the same as
losing accrued credits; no liberty interest in earning
credits in South Carolina), report and recommendation
adopted, 2012 WL 3059620 (D.S.C. July 26, 2012).
it is recommended that the Petition for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus in this ...