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Thomas v. Adler

October 19, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge


Petitioner is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the Taft Correctional Institution following his conviction in this Court for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in United States v. Thomas, 1:98-cr-05022 OWW. In the instant petition, Petitioner contends that the District Court wrongfully accepted his plea of guilty because he did not use a firearm in the commission of the offense.


A prisoner who wishes to challenge the validity or constitutionality of his federal conviction or sentence must do so by way of a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Tripati v. Henman, 843 F.2d 1160, 1162 (9th Cir.1988); Thompson v. Smith, 719 F.2d 938, 940 (8th Cir.1983); In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3rd 1997); Broussard v. Lippman, 643 F.2d 1131, 1134 (5th Cir.1981). In such cases, only the sentencing court has jurisdiction. Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1163. A prisoner may not collaterally attack a federal conviction or sentence by way of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Grady v. United States, 929 F.2d 468, 470 (9th Cir.1991); Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1162; see also United States v. Flores, 616 F.2d 840, 842 (5th Cir.1980).

In contrast, a prisoner challenging the manner, location, or conditions of that sentence's execution must bring a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Capaldi v. Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 1998); United States v. Tubwell, 37 F.3d 175, 177 (5th Cir. 1994); Kingsley v. Bureau of Prisons, 937 F.2d 26, 30 n.5 (2nd Cir. 1991); United States v. Jalili, 925 F.2d 889, 893-94 (6th Cir. 1991); Barden v. Keohane, 921 F.2d 476, 478-79 (3rd Cir. 1991); United States v. Hutchings, 835 F.2d 185, 186-87 (8th Cir. 1987); Brown v. United States, 610 F.2d 672, 677 (9th Cir. 1990).

In this case, Petitioner is challenging the validity and constitutionality of his federal sentence rather than an error in the administration of his sentence. Therefore, the appropriate procedure would be to file a motion pursuant to § 2255 and not a habeas petition pursuant to § 2241.

On the form petition, Petitioner indicates, incorrectly, that he has not previously filed any petitions for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 or 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Petition, at 4.) However, Petitioner has previously filed a habeas corpus petition under § 2255 in his underlying criminal case which was assigned case number 1:01-cv-6614 OWW. That petition was denied as untimely on September 8, 2004, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue a certificate of appealability. (See 1:98-cr-5022 OWW Docs. 214, 222; 1:01-cv-06614 Doc. 1.)

In rare situations, a federal prisoner authorized to seek relief under § 2255 may seek relief under § 2241 if he can show the remedy available under § 2255 to be "inadequate or ineffective to test the validity of his detention." United States v. Pirro, 104 F.3d 297, 299 (9th Cir.1997) (quoting § 2255). Although there is little guidance from any court on when § 2255 is an inadequate or ineffective remedy, the Ninth Circuit has recognized that it is a very narrow exception. Id; Aronson v. May, 85 S.Ct. 3, 5 (1964) (a court's denial of a prior § 2255 motion is insufficient to render § 2255 inadequate.); Tripati, 843 F.2d at 1162-63 (9th Cir.1988) (a petitioner's fears of bias or unequal treatment do not render a § 2255 petition inadequate); Williams v. Heritage, 250 F.2d 390 (9th Cir.1957); Hildebrandt v. Swope, 229 F.2d 582 (9th Cir.1956). The burden is on the petitioner to show that the remedy is inadequate or ineffective. Redfield v. United States, 315 F.2d 76, 83 (9th Cir. 1963).

To the extent Petitioner may attempt to claim that § 2255 is inadequate and ineffective, such claim is without merit. The Ninth Circuit has provided little guidance on what constitutes "inadequate and ineffective" in relation to the savings clause. The Ninth Circuit has acknowledged that "[o]ther circuits have held that . . . a federal prisoner who is actually innocent of the crime of conviction, but who has never had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting a claim of innocence, may resort to § 2241 if the possibility of relief under § 2255 is foreclosed." Lorentsen v. Hood, 223 F.3d 950, 954 (9th Cir.2000) (internal citations omitted). Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit in Lorentsen specifically declined to decide whether to adopt the holdings of any other circuits. Id. Notably, however, the Ninth Circuit did find that the Petitioner in Lorentsen could not invoke the "escape hatch in § 2255" because the Petitioner was not "actually innocent" of the underlying conviction. Id.

It is clear that Petitioner had an unobstructed procedural opportunity to present his claims and he has done so. Indeed, Petitioner makes no claim to the contrary. The fact that he did so untimely does not render the process inadequate or ineffective. The savings clause can only be satisfied if Petitioner has been denied the opportunity to present his claims. The savings clause does not serve as a further level of appeal. Accordingly, the instant petition should be dismissed.


Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that the petition for writ of habeas corpus be DISMISSED because the petition does not allege grounds that would entitle petitioner to relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

These Findings and Recommendations are submitted to the Honorable Lawrence J. O'Neill, United States District Court Judge, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. ยง 636 (b)(1)(B) and Rule 72-304 of the Local Rules of Practice for the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Within ten (10) court days (plus three days if served by mail) after being served with a copy, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Replies to the objections shall be served and filed within ten (10) court days (plus three days if served by mail) after service of the objections. The Court will then review the Magistrate Judge's ruling pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ...

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