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Webb v. Entzel

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 15, 2017

DAVID WEBB, Petitioner,
CYNTHIA ENTZEL, Warden, Respondent.



         The Court summarily dismisses Petitioner's habeas petition for lack of jurisdiction.

         1. Petitioner was formerly an inmate at the federal prison facility at Victorville, California. (Shortly after commencing this action, he was transferred to a federal prison in Tennessee.) He filed a habeas petition in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 seeking review of his sentence resulting from an armed bank robbery conviction.

         2. In 1998, Petitioner was convicted of the bank robbery charge at trial in the Eastern District of Arkansas. The district court imposed a life sentence on Petitioner under the career offender provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(1). The court found that Petitioner had previously been convicted of robbery, aggravated robbery, and escape. (Docket # 8 at 4.) The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence. United States v. Webb, 168 F.3d 496 (8th Cir. 1999).

         3. Since then, Petitioner pursued numerous forms of post-conviction relief in the Arkansas federal court. In its motion to dismiss this action, the government identified three post-appeal collateral attacks that Petitioner filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas between 2000 and the present. The first two were denied in the district court and on appeal to the Eighth Circuit. The third collateral attack - filed several weeks before Petitioner commenced this action in the Central District of California - was also denied. (Docket # 8 at 5-6.)

         4. In his current action in this district, Petitioner contends that he is serving an "illegal sentence." He argues that his prior convictions cannot serve as predicate offenses for a career offender sentence following the Supreme Court's decision in Descamps v. United States, ___U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013). (Docket # 1.) He seeks relief under the "savings clause" under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Id. at 3.)

         5. The government moved to dismiss the action on numerous grounds. Its key claims are that Petitioner's Section 2241 action is actually an improper motion under Section 2255. The government contends that this Court does not have jurisdiction over Petitioner's claims. The government also briefly argues that Petitioner's action fails on the merits. (Docket #8.)

         6. In his reply submission, Petitioner appears to add several legal theories to his claim for relief. These include references to the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, ___U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).

         7. If it "plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, " the Court may summarily dismiss a habeas petition after filing. Local Rule 72-3.2 (magistrate judge may submit proposed order for summary dismissal to district judge); see also Rule 4(b) of Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases in United States District Courts (petition may be summarily dismissed if petitioner plainly not entitled to relief).

         8. The Court concludes that it does not have jurisdiction over Petitioner's claims. Federal prisoners have two statutory paths by which they may seek a writ of habeas corpus. "As a general rule, " federal inmates may collaterally attack their conviction only under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Alaimalo v. United States, 645 F.3d 1042, 1046 (9th Cir. 2011). However, a federal prisoner may also seek a writ under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. That statute permits a prisoner to "challenge the manner, location, or conditions of a sentence's execution" by habeas review in the district in which the inmate is confined. Hernandez v. Campbell, 204 F.3d 861, 864 (9th Cir. 2000).

         9. The statutes overlap in the "exceptional case" in which a petition "qualifies for the escape hatch of [Section] 2255, and can legitimately be brought as a [Section] 2241 petition." Harrison v. Ollison, 519 F.3d 952, 958 (9th Cir. 2008). The "escape hatch" provision under Section 2255(e) allows a federal prisoner to pursue relief under Section 2241 where it appears that a habeas petition in the sentencing court is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." Id. at 956. To apply the escape hatch, a district court must first answer the "threshold jurisdictional question" of "whether a petition is properly brought under § 2241 or is, instead, a disguised § 2255 motion, before it can proceed to the merits of the claim." Marrero v. Ives, 682 F.3d 1190, 1194 (9th Cir. 2012).

         10. A prisoner may qualify for the escape hatch - and bring a Section 2241 petition in the district in which the prisoner is incarcerated - when the petitioner "(1) makes a claim of actual innocence, and (2) has not had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting that claim." Alaimalo, 645 F.3d at 1047 (quotation omitted).

         11. However, a "purely legal claim that has nothing to do with factual innocence [ ] is not a cognizable claim of 'actual innocence' for the purposes of qualifying to bring a § 2241 petition under the escape hatch." Marrero, 682 F.3d at 1194 (actual innocence "means factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency") (citation omitted).

         12. As for the "unobstructed procedural shot" component, a prisoner must show that: (1) "the legal basis for petitioner's claim [of actual innocence] did not arise until after he had exhausted his direct appeal and first § 2255 motion"; and (2) "the law changed in any way relevant to petitioner's claim after that first § 2255 motion." Harrison, 519 F.3d at 960. An intervening court decision "must effect a material change ...

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