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Farmer v. Bragg

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 6, 2016

Michael Eugene Farmer, Petitioner,
v.
M. Travis Bragg, Respondent.

          Michael Eugene Farmer, Petitioner, Pro Se.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.

         Petitioner, a federal prison inmate appearing pro se, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 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. §§ 1915(e), 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).

         I. Factual Background

         Michael Eugene Farmer ("Petitioner") was convicted in 2002 of one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of cocaine base (crack) in the Eastern District of North Carolina ("the sentencing court"). United States v. Farmer, No. 5:02cr-00131-BO-1 (E.D. N.C. ) (the "Criminal Case"). Following conviction Petitioner was sentenced under the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("USSG") career-offender provisions to 262 months in prison. Id., Crim. Case ECF No. 16. Petitioner filed a § 2255 motion in his Criminal Case, claiming that his career-offender classification was incorrect in light of United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011). In his § 2255 motion, Petitioner argued that one of the predicate convictions used to support his career-offender classification should not have been considered as it did not carry a penalty exceeding one year. Petitioner noted he had been sentenced to 10-12 months custody for that conviction. The sentencing court denied the § 2255 motion as untimely. Crim. Case ECF Nos. 48, 83. Petitioner also submitted an unsuccessful § 2241 petition raising the same issue in the sentencing court. Crim. Case ECF Nos. 91, 101. In filing the Petitioner now under review, Petitioner acknowledges that he did not request authorization from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ("Fourth Circuit") for a successive § 2255 motion before filing this case. Pet. 4, ECF No. 1.

         In the instant § 2241 Petition, Petitioner again challenges the validity of his enhanced sentence, claiming as he did in the sentencing court that his career-offender classification was incorrect in light of Simmons. He asserts that the § 2255 remedy is inadequate/ineffective because Simmons represents new law handed down after both his direct appeal and his § 2255 motion and because he cannot satisfy § 2255's gatekeeping provision as Simmons did not create a new rule of constitutional law. Pet. 5. Petitioner asks this court to resentence him without the USSG career-offender enhancement. Id. at 9.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 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. §§ 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).

         This 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).

         Furthermore, 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 § 2254). Following the required initial review, it is recommended that the Petition submitted in this case be summarily dismissed.

         III. Discussion

         The Petition in this case should be dismissed because Petitioner's allegations do not fall within this court's § 2241 subject-matter jurisdiction, nor do Petitioner's allegations fall within the § 2255 savings clause. "[I]t is well established that defendants convicted in federal court are obliged to seek habeas relief from their convictions and sentences through § 2255." Rice v. Rivera, 617 F.3d 802, 807 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 (4th Cir. 1997)). In contrast, a motion filed under § 2241 is typically used to challenge the manner in which a sentence is executed. See In re Vial, 115 F.3d at 1194 n.5. A petitioner cannot challenge his federal conviction and sentence under § 2241 unless he can satisfy § 2255's so-called savings clause, which states:

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 court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e); see alsoRice, 617 F.3d at 807 (If a federal prisoner brings a § 2241 petition that does not fall within the scope of the savings clause, the district court must dismiss the "unauthorized habeas ...


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