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Rith v. Rios

June 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin 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 United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California. He challenges his guilty plea and sentence in the United States District Court for the District of Utah for assault on a federal officer. He was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") to 96 months imprisonment.

Following his conviction, on August 26, 2004, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the sentencing court, which was denied on May 19, 2005.*fn2 Petitioner appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the appeal was denied.

Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on June 9, 2010. Petitioner argues that his prior conviction for possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun was not a "violent felony" under the ACCA. He contends that he is actually innocent of the ACCA sentencing designation because he has not suffered two prior violent felony or serious drug offenses.


A federal 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); see also Stephens v. Herrera, 464 F.3d 895, 897 (9th Cir.2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1313 (2007); 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 in the district where the petitioner is in custody. Stephens, 464 F.3d at 897; Hernandez v. Campbell, 204 F.3d 861, 864-65 (9th Cir.2000) (per curiam); Brown v. United States, 610 F.2d 672, 677 (9th Cir. 1990); 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). "The general rule is that a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the exclusive means by which a federal prisoner may test the legality of his detention, and that restrictions on the availability of a § 2255 motion cannot be avoided through a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241." Stephens, 464 F.3d at 897 (citations omitted).

As Petitioner acknowledges, an exception exists by which a federal prisoner may seek relief under § 2241 if he can demonstrate 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); see Hernandez, 204 F.3d at 864-65. The Ninth Circuit has recognized that it is a very narrow exception. Ivy v. Pontesso, 328 F.3d 1057, 59 (9th Cir.) (as amended), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1051 (2003). The remedy under § 2255 usually will not be deemed inadequate or ineffective merely because a prior § 2255 motion was denied, or because a remedy under that section is procedurally barred. See 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 (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 Ninth Circuit has provided little guidance on what constitutes "inadequate and ineffective" in relation to the savings clause. It has acknowledged that "[other] circuits, however, have held that Section 2255 provides an 'inadequate and ineffective' remedy (and thus that the petitioner may proceed under Section 2241) when the petitioner claims to be: (1) factually innocent of the crime for which he has been convicted; and, (2) has never had an 'unobstructed procedural shot' at presenting this claim ." Ivy, 328 F.3d at 1059-60, citing Lorentsen v. Hood, 223 F.3d 950, 954 (9th Cir.2000)); see also Stephens, 464 F.3d at 898. 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).

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

Petitioner argues, however, that § 2255 is inadequate and ineffective, because he had already filed a § 2255 motion by the time the Supreme Court decided Haste v. United States, 553 U.S. 1001 (2008), Chambers v. United States, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 687 (2009), and Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008). Therefore, he argues, he could not have filed a § 2255 challenge to the ACCA sentencing enhancement because those cases had not yet been decided. However, this does not render the remedy of § 2255 inadequate or ineffective.

Under the AEDPA, a prisoner may not bring a second or successive Section 2255 motion in district court unless "a panel of the appropriate court of appeals" certifies that the motion contains: (1) newly discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty of the offense; or (2) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; see Harrison v. Ollison, 519 F.3d 952, 955 (9th Cir.2008). Petitioner fails to meet either of these requirements. First, newly discovered evidence is not at issue in this case. Second, Petitioner does not cite to any cases, and the Court has found none, finding that the United States Supreme ...

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