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Williams v. Warden, FCI Estill

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

December 2, 2019

David V. Williams, Jr., Petitioner,
Warden, FCI Estill, Respondent.


          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge.

         The petitioner, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 for habeas relief. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such petitions for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         The petitioner's § 2241 petition was entered on the docket in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii on September 17, 2019 (doc. 1). In light of the petitioner's transfer to the District of South Carolina, the petition was transferred to this court by order dated October 7, 2019 (doc. 4). By order dated November 6, 2019, the undersigned informed the petitioner that his petition was subject to dismissal as drafted and providing him with fourteen days to file an amended petition to correct the deficiencies noted in the order (doc. 20). The petitioner was informed that if he failed to file an amended petition or cure the deficiencies outlined in the order, the undersigned would recommend that his petition be dismissed (id.). Although the petitioner filed a letter with the court, he has failed to file an amended petition within the time provided; accordingly, the undersigned recommends that the instant matter be dismissed without requiring the respondent to file an answer or return.


         The petitioner is currently serving a 151-month sentence for Bank Robbery by Force or Violence, which was imposed in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. See United States v. Williams, C/A No. 1:11-cr-00937-SOM-1 (D. Haw.). The petitioner contends, however, that while serving his sentence he was injured in a fight, and the injury caused him to develop schizophrenia (docs. 1; 1-2). As a result of his mental illness, the petitioner takes antipsychotic medication (docs. 1; 1-2). The petitioner contends that between 2011 and 2019 he has had several disciplinary infractions while incarcerated with the bureau of prisons (“BOP”), and that all of his good time credits have been taken away (doc. 1-2 at 2). The petitioner indicates that this was improper because, as a diagnosed schizophrenic, he was incompetent at the time of the infractions and during the disciplinary hearings (id.). The petitioner further contends that he was not able to appeal his disciplinary charges because of his mental illness (id. at 2, 6, 7).

         Ground One for relief in the petition is asserted as the unconstitutional removal of the petitioner's good time credit despite his mental illness and treatment protocol which includes antipsychotic medication (id. at 6). The petitioner concedes that he has not administratively appealed Ground One within the BOP (id.). As Ground Two for relief, the petitioner asserts that the incident reports and disciplinary hearings were illegal because the petitioner was on antipsychotic medication and had a diagnosis of schizophrenia (id.). He contends that Ground Two was not appealed administratively because of his mental illness and “improper institution designation” (id.). For relief, the petitioner seeks the return of all of his good credit time, for a sentence recalculation, and for an order releasing him from BOP custody (docs. 1 at 3; 1-2 at 7).


         The undersigned has reviewed the petition pursuant to the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214; and other habeas corpus statutes. As a pro se litigant, the petitioner's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam). The mandated liberal construction means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the petitioner could prevail, it should do so. However, 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 cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).


         As noted above, the petitioner filed the instant action pursuant to § 2241, seeking the return of all of his good time credit. For the reasons that follow, the instant matter is subject to summary dismissal.


         Although § 2241 does not contain a statutory exhaustion requirement, it is well-settled that a prisoner “must exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing a § 2241 petition.” McClung v. Shearin, 90 Fed.Appx. 444, 445 (4th Cir. 2004); see Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 490-91 (1973) (requiring exhaustion in § 2241 matter); see also Timms v. Johns, 627 F.3d 525, 531 (4th Cir. 2010) (requiring exhaustion of § 2241 petition); Taylor v. Warden, Satellite Prison Camp at Edgefield, S.C., C/A No. 2:16-cv-01826-RBH, 2017 WL 359497, at *2-3 (D.S.C. Jan. 25, 2017). The exhaustion requirement allows prison officials to develop a factual record and provides them with the opportunity to “resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 204 (2007).

         The judicial exhaustion requirement, however, may be excused by the court for discretionary reasons, such as where requiring exhaustion would be futile. See e.g., Chestnut v. Mosley, C/A No. 1:18-cv-00747-RBH-SVH, 2018 WL 2091387, at *2 (D.S.C. Mar. 30, 2018), Report and Recommendation adopted by 2018 WL 2087252 (D.S.C. May 4, 2018). Additionally, courts have emphasized that a petitioner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies may be excused upon a showing of cause and prejudice. McClung, 90 Fed.Appx. at 445 (internal citation omitted). Cause and prejudice requires: “(1) available remedies provide no genuine opportunity for adequate relief; (2) irreparable injury may occur without immediate judicial relief; (3) administrative appeal would be futile; and (4) in certain instances a [petitioner] has raised a substantial constitutional question.” Beharry v. Ashcroft, 329 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Here, the petitioner concedes that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies (doc. 1-2 at 2, 6, 7). However, he contends that the court should excuse the exhaustion requirement because he has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (schizophrenia) and takes antipsychotic medication (id.; doc. 1 at 1). The petitioner reiterates this argument in the letter filed with the court in response to the November 6, 2019, order instructing him to amend his petition (see doc. 22). However, the petitioner's unsupported conclusory assertions are insufficient to excuse his failure to exhaust. See Thetford Props. IV Ltd. P'ship v. U.S. Dep't of Hous. & Urban Dev., 907 F.2d 445, 450 (4th Cir. 1990) (explaining that allowing a petitioner to avoid the administrative process based on a mere conclusory assertion “would allow the futility exception to swallow the exhaustion rule”). Additionally, despite the petitioner's assertions to the contrary, mental illness does not automatically equal incompetence. Moreover, the petitioner's competence has been tested and confirmed on several occasions, as outlined in an order denying a § 2255 motion filed by the petitioner in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.[1]See United States of America v. Williams, C/A No. ...

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