RAYMOND v. ORTIZ
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/20/2017. (tf, n.m.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-6429 (JBS)
WARDEN DAVID ORTIZ,
James Raymond, Petitioner pro se
FCI Fort Dix
East: P.O. Box 2000
Fort Dix, NJ 08640
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
This matter comes before the Court on James Raymond’s
Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2241. Petition, Docket Entry 1.
Petitioner is a convicted and sentenced federal
prisoner presently incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey. He
was convicted via bench trial in the District of Maine for two
violations of the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), transporting a
person under the age of eighteen in interstate commerce with the
intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Brief in Support
at 2 (citing United States v. Raymond, 710 F. Supp. 2d 161 (D.
Me. May 7, 2010)). He was sentenced to 144 months incarceration
and lifetime supervised release. Id. at 2-3.
Petitioner appealed to the United States Court of
Appeals for the First Circuit, arguing the trial court
improperly admitted evidence, improperly restricted crossexamination of the Government’s witness, and gave Petitioner a
cruel and unusual sentence. Id. at 3. The First Circuit affirmed
the convictions and sentence. Id. (citing United States v.
Raymond, 697 F.3d 32 (1st Cir. 2012)).
Petitioner thereafter filed a motion in the sentencing
court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 raising ineffective
assistance of counsel claims. Id. The district court denied the
motion, and the First Circuit denied a certificate of
appealability. United States v. Raymond, No. 2:09-CV-144, 2014
WL 806268 (D. Me. Feb. 28, 2014), certificate of appealability
denied, No. 14-1323 (1st Cir. Oct. 1, 2014).
On October 4, 2016, Petitioner filed this petition for
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 raising
actual innocence claims and asserting this Court has
jurisdiction based on § 2255(e)’s “savings clause.” Brief in
Support at 3-4.
Petitioner argues he is entitled to relief due to a
circuit spilt over the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a)’s
“with intent” element. According to Petitioner, the Third
Circuit interprets the “with intent” element to mean “that the
outlawed conduct must be ‘the dominant motive of such interstate
movement,’” whereas the First Circuit only requires that the
sexual conduct “was ‘at least one of the defendant’s motivations
for taking the trip in the first place.’” Id. at 8 (quoting
Mortensen v. United States, 322 U.S. 369, 374 (1944); United
States v. Ellis, 935 F.2d 385, 390 (1st Cir. 1991)).
Petitioner asks the Court to determine that the
Government “could not have met the burden of proof for a
conviction under § 2423(a) under the Third Circuit’s
interpretation of that Statute of the time of Petitioner’s
conviction.” Id. at 13.
Petitioner brings this petition for a writ of habeas
corpus as a pro se litigant. The Court has an obligation to
liberally construe pro se pleadings and to hold them to less
stringent standards than more formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Higgs v.
Attorney Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011), as
amended (Sept. 19, 2011) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
Nevertheless, a federal district court must dismiss a
habeas corpus petition if it appears from the face of the
petition that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. §
2254 Rule 4 (made applicable through Rule 1(b)); see also
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Siers v. Ryan, 773
F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1989).
Petitioner candidly states he is challenging the
validity of his conviction in this petition. Petition ¶ 10.
“[Section] 2255 expressly prohibits a district court from
considering a challenge to a prisoner's federal sentence under §
2241 unless the remedy under § 2255 is ‘inadequate or
ineffective to test the legality of his detention.’” Snyder v.
Dix, 588 F. App’x 205, 206 (3d Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (quoting
28 U.S.C. § 2255(e)). See also Okereke v. United States, 307
F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002); In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245,
249 (3d Cir. 1997).
Petitioner argues that § 2255 is “‘inadequate and
ineffective’ when ‘at the time of conviction settled law of this
Circuit . . . established the legality of the conviction.’”
Petition ¶ 10(c) (citing Trenkler v. Pugh, 83 F. App'x 468, 470
(3d Cir. 2003)).
The case cited by Petitioner does not support his
contention that § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective. The quoted
portion is only one part of the test to determine whether the
savings clause applies:
[Section] 2255 is inadequate and ineffective to test the
legality of a conviction when: (1) at the time of
conviction, settled law of this circuit or the Supreme
Court established the legality of the conviction; (2)
subsequent to the prisoner's direct appeal and first §
2255 motion, the substantive law changed such that the
conduct of which the prisoner was convicted is deemed
not to be criminal; and (3) the prisoner cannot satisfy
the gatekeeping provisions of § 2255 because the new
rule is not one of constitutional law.
Trenkler, 83 F. App’x at 470 (internal citation and quotation
Here, there has been no post-conviction decision by
the Supreme Court making Petitioner’s conduct non-criminal.
Petitioner essentially argues that he may use § 2241 to vacate
his conviction because the First Circuit allegedly interprets §
2423(a) differently than the Third Circuit. Were this the case,
prisoners could bypass the requirements of § 2255 and challenge
an otherwise valid conviction anytime they happened to be moved
to a judicial circuit with a different interpretation than the
circuit in which they were convicted. This is not the purpose of
the savings clause. Petitioner could have challenged the First
Circuit’s interpretation of § 2423(a)’s “with intent” element
either on direct appeal or in his § 2255 motion. Accordingly,
this Court lacks jurisdiction over the petition.
Whenever a civil action is filed in a court that lacks
jurisdiction, “the court shall, if it is in the interests of
justice, transfer such action ... to any other such court in
which the action ... could have been brought at the time it was
filed.” 28 U.S.C. § 1631.
In this case, the Court does not find it in the
interests of justice to transfer this habeas petition to the
First Circuit as it does not appear Petitioner can meet the
requirements for filing a second or successive § 2255 motion as
set forth in § 2255(h). However, this Court's decision to not
transfer this case does not prevent Petitioner from seeking
leave from the First Circuit, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(a), should he
elect to do so.
15. An appropriate order follows.
April 20, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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