SAMPSON v. ORTIZ
OPINION. Signed by Judge Robert B. Kugler on 10/17/2017. (rtm, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ROBERT NEIL SAMPSON,
Civ. No. 17-1298 (RBK)
WARDEN DAVID E. ORTIZ,
ROBERT B. KUGLER, U.S.D.J.
Petitioner is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New
Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2241. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be dismissed without prejudice.
Mr. Sampson was arrested on September 20, 2012 in BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in
Maryland by Prince George’s County police officers. There were two cases pending against Mr.
Sampson in the Prince George’s County circuit court, CR0E0049463 and 5E0049412. On
February 19, 2013, Mr. Sampson appeared before the United States District Court for the District
of Maryland on federal charges related to the Maryland state charges. He pled guilty to the
federal charges and was sentenced to 300 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
One set of state charges, those proceeding under case CR0E0049463, were dismissed by
the state. Mr. Sampson asserts that the other set of charges remains active and that he has not yet
been tried on those charges. He filed this § 2241 petition challenging both the 300-month federal
sentence and the untried state charges. He argues the federal judgment is a “constitutional nullity.
The federal district court was without authority to adjudicate the matter while criminal
proceedings were underway in state court.” He invokes his Sixth Amendment speedy trial rights
and requests the Court order the Prince George’s County circuit court to dismiss the untried state
STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
With respect to screening the instant habeas petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2243 provides in
A court, justice or judge entertaining an application for a writ of
habeas corpus shall forthwith award the writ or issue an order
directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be
granted, unless it appears from the application that the applicant or
person detained is not entitled thereto.
As petitioner is proceeding pro se, his petition is held to less stringent standards than those
pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Rainey v. Varner, 603 F.3d 189, 198 (3d Cir. 2010) (“It is the
policy of the courts to give a liberal construction to pro se habeas petitions.”) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted); United States v. Otero, 502 F.3d 331, 334 (3d Cir. 2007) ( “we
construe pro se pleadings liberally.”) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S .Ct. 594,
30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)). Nevertheless, “a district court is authorized to dismiss a [habeas]
petition summarily when it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed
to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court[.]” Lonchar v. Thomas, 517
U.S. 314, 320 (1996).
This Court lacks jurisdiction under § 2241 to adjudicate Mr. Sampson’s challenge to his
federal sentence. Generally, a challenge to the validity of a federal conviction or sentence must
be brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Jackman v. Shartle, 535 F. App'x 87, 88 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citing Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002)). Section 2255 prohibits a
district court from entertaining a challenge to a prisoner's federal sentence through § 2241 unless
the remedy under § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Indeed, §
2255(e) states that:
[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner
who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this
section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has
failed to apply for relief, by motion, to the court which sentenced
him, or that such a court has denied him relief, unless it also
appears that the remedy by the motion is inadequate or ineffective
to test the legality of his detention.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). A § 2255 motion is “inadequate or ineffective,” which permits a petitioner
to resort to a § 2241 petition, “only where the petitioner demonstrates that some limitation or
procedure would prevent a § 2255 proceeding from affording him a full hearing and adjudication
of his wrongful detention claim.” Cradle v. U.S. ex rel. Miner, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002)
(citations omitted). However, “[s]ection 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the
sentencing court does not grant relief, the one-year statute of limitations has expired, or the
petitioner is unable to meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of ... § 2255.” Id. at 539
(citations omitted). “It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is
determinative.” Id. at 538 (citation omitted).
Mr. Sampson does not argue that an intervening Supreme Court decision made his
conduct non-criminal. See In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251–52 (3d Cir. 1997). He instead
argues the federal court lacked jurisdiction over him ab initio due to the pending state charges,
rendering his judgment of conviction invalid. This is not an argument within the Dorsainvil
exception. The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over this claim under § 2241.
To the extent Mr. Sampson challenges the pending Maryland state charges, the Court
declines to exercise its pretrial habeas jurisdiction over that claim. District courts have
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to issue a writ of habeas corpus before a criminal judgment
is entered against an individual in state court, see Moore v. De Young, 515 F.2d 437, 441-42 (3d
Cir. 1975), but “that jurisdiction must be exercised sparingly in order to prevent in the ordinary
circumstance ‘pre-trial habeas interference by federal courts in the normal functioning of state
criminal processes.’” Duran v. Thomas, 393 F. App’x 3, 4 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Moore, 515
F.3d at 445-46). “The district court should exercise its ‘pre-trial’ habeas jurisdiction only if
petitioner makes a special showing of the need for such adjudication and has exhausted state
remedies.” Moore, 515 F.2d at 443. Mr. Sampson indicates he raised his claims in the trial court
but does not indicate whether he presented his claims to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals
and Court of Appeals. See Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, Delaware Cty., Pa., 959 F.2d 1227,
1230 (3d Cir. 1992) (“A claim must be presented not only to the trial court but also to the state's
intermediate court as well as to its supreme court.”).
Moreover, the Court finds that there are no extraordinary circumstances warranting
federal intervention at this time. Federal habeas proceedings should not be used as a “‘pre-trial
motion forum for state prisoners,’” or to “permit the derailment of a pending state proceeding by
an attempt to litigate constitutional defenses prematurely in federal court.” Braden v. 30th
Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484, 493 (1973). The Third Circuit reversed a
district court’s granting of pre-trial habeas relief on speedy trial grounds in Moore, stating that
there was “nothing in the nature of the speedy trial right to qualify it as a per se ‘extraordinary
circumstance’” and that “federal courts should not permit the claimed denial of a speedy trial,
presented in a pre-trial application for habeas, to result in the derailment of a pending state
proceeding.” 515 F.2d at 446 (internal quotation marks omitted). “Once [petitioner] has
exhausted state court remedies, the federal courts will, of course, be open to him, if need be, to
entertain any petition for habeas corpus relief which may be presented. These procedures amply
serve to protect [petitioner]'s constitutional rights without pre-trial federal intervention in the
orderly functioning of state criminal processes.” Id. at 449. As Petitioner has not shown
extraordinary circumstances warranting federal intervention at this time, the petition will be
dismissed without prejudice to Petitioner's right to bring a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, if
necessary, after he has exhausted his state court remedies.1
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), a petitioner may not appeal from a final order denying
relief from a “detention complained of aris[ing] out of process issued by a State Court” unless he
has “made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(2). “When the district court denies a habeas petition on procedural grounds without reaching the
prisoner's underlying constitutional claim, a [certificate of appealability] should issue when ...
jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of
a constitutional right and that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district court
was correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). This Court
denies a certificate of appealability because jurists of reason would not find it debatable that
dismissal of the petition for failure to exhaust Maryland state court remedies is correct or,
alternatively, that Mr. Sampson has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a
The Court expresses no opinion as to the merits of any potential forthcoming petition or
whether petitioner has otherwise met the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
For the foregoing reasons, the habeas petition will be summarily dismissed without
prejudice. An appropriate order will be entered.
DATED: October 17, 2017
_s/Robert B. Kugler
ROBERT B. KUGLER
United States District Judge
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