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United States District Court, N.D. California

September 19, 2005.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLAUDIA WILKEN, District Judge

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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(e).

  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 an extension.

  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

  A. Jurisdiction

  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. 1970).

  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 habeas corpus.").

  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 commences —
(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 sentence.


  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).



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