Burgess v. Merlak
Opinion & Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 10/19/17 dismissing this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 for the reasons set forth in this order. The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. (D,MA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WARDEN S. MERLAK,
CASE NO. 4:17 CV 1349
JUDGE JAMES S. GWIN
OPINION & ORDER
Pro se Petitioner Janeiro Burgess is an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution in
Elkton, Ohio. He brings this action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241,
challenging the sentence imposed on him by the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina. In particular, he contends the trial court erred by enhancing his
sentence based on a finding that he was a Career Offender. Petitioner relies for this proposition
on Descamps v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013),1 which he asserts the government
conceded - in Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016) - applies retroactively on collateral
A district court must conduct an initial review of habeas corpus petitions. 28 U.S.C.
Descamps held that a federal sentencing judge may not look to the underlying court record
in determining whether a defendant committed predicate Armed Career Criminal Act
offenses when the statute of conviction has a single, indivisible set of elements.
§2243; Alexander v. Bureau of Prisons, 419 Fed. App'x 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). The court
must deny a petition on initial review if it plainly appears from the face of the petition that the
petitioner is not entitled to relief. Id. The allegations in the petition are accepted as true and
liberally construed in the petitioner’s favor. Urbina v. Thomas, 270 F.3d 292, 295 (6th Cir.
Habeas corpus petitions brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 address the execution of a
sentence, while motions filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 test the validity of a judgment and
sentence. Capaldi v. Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 1998)(citing United States v.
Jalili, 925 F.2d 889, 893 (6th Cir. 1991)). Section 2255 provides in pertinent part:
[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 court has denied him relief, unless it also appears
that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the
legality of his detention.
28 U.S.C. § 2255.
The terms "inadequate" or "ineffective" do not mean that habeas corpus relief is
available whenever a federal prisoner faces a substantive or procedural barrier to § 2255
relief, including the denial of a previously filed section 2255 motion. Charles v. Chandler,
180 F.3d 753, 756 (6th Cir. 1999). Rather, the “savings clause” noted above applies when
the failure to allow some form of collateral review would raise “serious constitutional
questions.” Frost v. Snyder, 13 Fed.Appx. 243, 248 (6th Cir. 2001)(unpublished
disposition)(quoting Triestman v. United States, 124 F.3d 361, 376 (2d Cir. 1997)). A
petitioner bears the burden of proving that the section 2255 remedy is inadequate or
ineffective. Charles, 180 F.3d at 756 (citing McGhee v. Hanberry, 604 F.2d 9, 10 (5th Cir.
The Supreme Court has not held that Descamps applies retroactively to cases on
collateral review. Groves v. United States, 755 F.3d 588, 593 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 135 S.
Ct. 501 (2014); United States v. Montes, 570 Fed.Appx. 830, 831 (10th Cir. 2014). Further,
Petitioner’s reliance on Hill v. Masters, supra, is misplaced, as that decision was based on
the government’s tacit agreement in that particular case that Descamps applied
retroactively. Id., at 595.
Petitioner thus seeks to raise sentencing issues that could and must be raised in a
2255 motion. The Petition does not set forth a valid basis on which to instead raise these
issues pursuant 28 U.S.C. § 2241, nor does it give rise to “serious constitutional questions”
requiring further consideration of Petitioner’s claims.
Accordingly, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243. The Court
certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be
taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: October 19, 2017
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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