United States District Court, N.D. California
September 19, 2005.
LOTHARIO JONES, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLAUDIA WILKEN, District Judge
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR CORRECTION OF JAIL TIME
CREDIT AND MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
Petitioner Lothario Jones, a federal inmate currently residing
in a federal penitentiary located in Atwater, California, moves
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241*fn1
to receive credit on his federal
sentence for twenty days served in State custody following his
arrest. He also requests a default judgment in this matter due to
the delay in Respondent's reply to his petition. Respondent
opposes the petition. Petitioner did not file a reply. Having
considered the papers filed by the parties, the Court DENIES
Petitioner's motion for a default judgment and DENIES
Petitioner's motion for prior custody credit. BACKGROUND
On September 26, 2001, officers of the Oakland police
department arrested Petitioner, a convicted felon, for possession
of a firearm. Gonzaga Decl. at ¶ 3; Presentence Report, Resp.'s
Ex. 1 at 1. At the time of his arrest, Petitioner was on State
felony probation. Resp.'s Ex. 1 at 1. On October 15, 2001, the
Alameda County superior court sentenced Petitioner to serve
twenty days in jail for his probation violation. Resp.'s Ex. 1 at
1. Because Petitioner had spent twenty days in custody while his
case was pending, this twenty-day term of imprisonment was
discharged on the day it issued. See id.
Petitioner remained in State custody until November 29, 2001,
when the United States Marshal took him into custody pursuant to
a federal detainer based on a charged violation of
18 U.S.C. § 922(g). On December 9, 2002, Petitioner plead guilty to this
charge and was sentenced to fifty-seven months imprisonment. The
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) credited Petitioner for time spent in
custody between October 16, 2001 and his sentencing date of
December 9, 2002. Inmate Data, Resp.'s Ex. 3 at 3.
On February 8, 2005, Petitioner filed a motion requesting a
reduction in the term of his imprisonment for the twenty days he
served in county jail between September 26, 2001 and October 15,
2001. On March 17, 2005, in response to Petitioner's motion, this
Court issued an Order to Show Cause instructing Respondent to
file a response within thirty days. On April 20, 2005, Petitioner
filed a motion for a judgment of default. On May 20, 2005,
Respondent filed a request for an extension of time to file an
opposition, which was granted by this Court in an order filed on May 31,
2005. On June 2, 2005, Respondent filed its opposition.
I. Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241
After a district court sentences a federal offender, the
Attorney General, through the BOP, has the responsibility for
administering the sentence. United States v. Wilson,
503 U.S. 329, 335 (1992) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3621(a)). This includes
responsibility for computing time credits and determining a
sentence termination date once the defendant actually commences
serving his sentence. Id. at 333-335; United States v.
Checchini, 967 F.2d 348, 349 (9th Cir. 1992). District courts
lack the authority to compute or to grant time credits at
sentencing. Wilson, 503 U.S. at 333; Checchini,
967 F.2d at 349. Once a prisoner commences his federal sentence and exhausts
his administrative remedies, however, he can petition for
judicial review of the Attorney General's computation of his
sentence. Wilson, 503 U.S. at 335; Checchini,
967 F.2d at 350. This is done by way of a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. United States v. Koller,
956 F.2d 1408, 1417 (7th Cir. 1992); accord United States v.
Giddings, 740 F.2d 770, 772 (9th Cir. 1984).
I. Default Judgment
Petitioner argues that because Respondent's delay in filing an
opposition to his petition violates this Court's March 17 Order
to Show Cause and creates "unnecessary prejudice," a default
judgment is warranted. This claim is not well-taken.
Default judgments are "generally disfavored, and whenever it is
reasonably possible, cases should be decided upon their merits."
In re Hammer, 940 F.2d 524, 525 (9th Cir. 1991) (internal
quotations omitted). No entry of default judgment may be entered
against the United States "unless claimant establishes a claim or
right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the court."
Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 6.1 of the United States District
Court for the Northern District of California, Respondent made a
motion for an extension of time in which to respond to
Petitioner's motion. In this motion, Respondent indicated that
the attorney originally assigned to this case had been in
Yugoslavia*fn2 for the past year and a half and that counsel
for Respondent had not timely recognized that another attorney
would need to prepare a response. In its discretion and in the
interest of justice, this Court granted Respondent's request for
Regardless of whether Respondent's assertions excuse its
failure to comply with the Court's Order to Show Cause,
Petitioner has not supported his contention that he has suffered
"unnecessary prejudice." Further, as discussed further below,
Petitioner's claim is without merit. Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 55(e) requires a satisfactory showing of a meritorious
claim before a default judgment is entered against the United
States. Because Petitioner has not demonstrated any right to relief, his request
for default judgment in this case must be denied.
II. Jurisdiction and Venue
The writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 can issue only
from a court with jurisdiction over the prisoner or his
custodian. United States v. Koller, 956 F.2d 1408, 1417 (9th
Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). 28 U.S.C. 2241(a). The statute
allows "the Supreme Court, any justice thereof, the district
courts and any circuit judge" to grant writs of habeas corpus
"within their respective jurisdictions." 28 U.S.C. 2241(a).
Because the writ of habeas corpus is directed at the person who
allegedly has detained the prisoner unlawfully, section 2241(a)
requires "nothing more than that the court issuing the writ have
jurisdiction over the custodian." Braden v. 30th Judicial
Circuit Court, 410 U.S. 484, 495 (1973).
Where a federal district court determines that the appropriate
custodian resides within the State in which it sits, the district
court has personal jurisdiction over the petition because its
jurisdiction extends to the territorial limits of the State in
which the court sits. United States ex rel. Ruffin v. Mancusi,
300 F. Supp. 686, 687 (E.D.N.Y. 1969). As long as the custodian
of a petitioner resides within California, this Court has
personal jurisdiction over the custodian and is accordingly
empowered to hear the petition. Because Petitioner is presently
incarcerated in a federal penitentiary in Atwater, which is
located within the State of California, this Court has
jurisdiction. B. Venue
Although this Court may have jurisdiction to hear a petition,
Braden also makes clear that "venue considerations may, and
frequently will, argue in favor of adjudication of the habeas
claim in the jurisdiction where the habeas petitioner is
confined." Chatman-Bey v. Thornburgh, 864 F.2d 804, 813 (D.C.
Cir. 1988); see also McCoy v. United States Bd. of Parole,
537 F.2d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 1976) ("Once the custodian of the
petitioner is properly served, the question is no longer
jurisdictional, but one of the most convenient forum for
litigation.") Transfer of a petition to another district court
may therefore be in order on grounds of convenience. Braden,
410 U.S. at 499 n. 15; McCoy, 537 F.2d at 966; United States
ex rel. Meadows v. New York, 426 F.2d 1176, 1183 n. 9 (2d Cir.
The district of confinement "is normally the forum most
convenient to the parties" and courts therefore exercise
discretion in transferring petitions to the district of
confinement "in the interests of justice" pursuant
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). McCoy, 537 F.2d at 966. A transfer to the district of
confinement on convenient-forum grounds is therefore preferable
as long as no undue delay is created. Chatman-Bey,
864 F.2d at 814 ("Delay is undesirable in all aspects of our justice system,
but it is especially to be avoided in the sensitive context of
Respondent opposes the petition on grounds of improper venue,
claiming that the petition is appropriately brought only in the
Eastern District of California, where Petitioner is confined. However, Respondent also indicates that Petitioner's release date
is December 5, 2005. Accordingly, although the district of
confinement is normally the most convenient venue for the
parties, here circumstances favor adjudication in this Court to
avoid the delay that would be entailed in the transfer of the
petition to Petitioner's jurisdiction of confinement.
Chatman-Bey, 864 F.2d at 814; see also Garcia v. Pugh,
948 F. Supp. 20, 23 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (in consideration of section
2241 petition, avoidance of undue delay sufficient to support
venue in sentencing court).
Respondent cites Dunne v. Henman for the proposition that
"[w]here . . . a prisoner challenges the manner in which the
federal authorities are executing his federal sentences, it is
not necessarily advantageous to have the federal district court
which sentenced him resolve his section 2241 habeas corpus
petition." 875 F.2d 244, 249 (9th Cir. 1989). However, Dunne is
not applicable here because Dunne did not address how venue is
affected by undue delay, a factor in this case.
III. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Respondent argues that this Court should not consider
Petitioner's habeas claim because Petitioner has failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies. See Jan Decl., Resp.'s Ex.
B. Generally, a federal prisoner must first exhaust all
administrative remedies through the BOP before petitioning a
federal court for time-served credit against his sentence.
Wilson, 503 U.S. at 335; Checchini, 967 F.2d at 350. However,
failure to exhaust administrative remedies does not deprive a
court of jurisdiction because exhaustion is not required by
statute. Brown v. Rison, 895 F.2d 533, 535 (9th Cir. 1990). The judicially-created requirement
that a petitioner exhaust administrative remedies may be
overridden in exceptional circumstances. Fraley v. United States
Bureau of Prisons, 1 F.3d 924, 925 (9th Cir. 1993) (exhaustion
for presentence credit excused where administrative remedy would
be futile due to certain denial).
Because Petitioner's release date is rapidly approaching,
requiring him to file an administrative claim with the BOP will
most likely lead to delay that will render his claim for relief
moot. Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that
Petitioner need not exhaust his administrative remedies.
IV. Jail Time Credit Computation
Title 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b) provides:
A defendant shall be given credit toward the service
of a term of imprisonment for any time he has spent
in official detention prior to the date the sentence
(1) as a result of the offense for which the sentence
was imposed; or
(2) as a result of any other charge for which the
defendant was arrested after the commission of the
offense for which the sentence was imposed;
that has not been credited against another sentence.
Under section 3585, a federal prisoner may be entitled to
presentence credits for time spent in official detention before
the sentence commences. Tanner v. Sivley, 76 F.3d 302
, 303 (9th
Cir. 1996) (discussing credits for time on probation). However,
there is "no statutory provision that accords a prisoner credit
against a federal sentence for time served in a state prison on a
state charge." Smith v. United States Parole Comm'n,
875 F.2d 1361
, 1364 (9th Cir. 1989) (quoting Raines v. United States
Parole Comm'n, 829 F.2d 840
, 843 (9th Cir. 1987))
Petitioner's claim is that the BOP should have credited him for
the twenty days he spent in Alameda County jail between September
26, 2001 and October 15, 2001. However, as noted above, the
twenty days in question were imposed pursuant to Petitioner's
violation of California State law, to wit, his violation of State
probation. Resp.'s Ex. 1. Under section 3585(b), because the
twenty days of imprisonment was credited against Petitioner's
State sentence, it cannot be awarded as credit to his federal
Based on the foregoing, the Court DENIES the section 2241
petition (Docket No. 34 in CR 01-40163) and DENIES Petitioner's
motion for default judgment (Docket No. 38 in CR 01-40163).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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