Jones v. Thomas
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 16 MOTION for Reconsideration re 14 Memorandum (Order to follow as separate docket entry), 15 Order (memorandum filed previously as separate docket entry), Order Dismissing Case,, filed by Patrick Jones Signed by Honorable Malachy E Mannion on 2/20/15. (bs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13-3105
WARDEN J.E. THOMAS
Petitioner, Patrick Jones, an inmate currently confined in the United
States Penitentiary, Lewisburg (“USP-Lewisburg”), Pennsylvania, filed this
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241. (Doc. 1,
petition). He challenges his conviction and sentence, two incident reports and
his subsequent placement in the Special Management Unit (“SMU”) at USPLewisburg. Id. For relief, Petitioner seeks to have the incident reports
expunged, his conviction and sentence vacated, to be immediately transferred
out of the SMU and released from prison. Id.
By Memorandum and Order dated July 7, 2014, the Court dismissed
Petitioner’s habeas corpus petition. (See Docs. 14, 15). Presently before the
Court is Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of this Court’s July 7, 2014
Memorandum and Order. (Doc. 16). Also before the Court is Petitioner’s
motion to amend his motion for reconsideration, in which he seeks to raise an
additional ground for reconsideration. (Doc. 19).
For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner’s motion to amend his motion
for reconsideration will be GRANTED, and his motion for reconsideration will
A motion for reconsideration is a device of limited utility. It may be used
only to seek remediation for manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly
discovered evidence which, if discovered previously, might have affected the
court's decision. Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906 (3d Cir. 1985), cert.
denied, 476 U.S. 1171 (1986); Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. v.
Maitland, Civil No. 87-0827 (M.D. Pa. March 1, 1989) (Rambo, J.).
Accordingly, a party seeking reconsideration must demonstrate at least one
of the following grounds prior to the court altering, or amending, a standing
judgment: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability
of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion; or
(3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest
injustice. Max’s Seafood Café v. Quineros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir.
1999)(citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194,
1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). A motion for reconsideration is appropriate in instances
where the court has “...misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside
the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an
error not of reasoning, but of apprehension.” See Rohrbach v. AT & T Nassau
Metals Corp., 902 F. Supp. 523, 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995), vacated in part on other
grounds on reconsideration, 915 F. Supp. 712 (M.D. Pa. 1996), quoting
Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D.
Va. 1983). It may not be used as a means to reargue unsuccessful theories,
or argue new facts or issues that were not presented to the court in the
context of the matter previously decided. Drysdale v. Woerth, 153 F. Supp. 2d
678, 682 (E.D. Pa. 2001). “Because federal courts have a strong interest in
the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted
sparingly.” Continental Casualty Co. v. Diversified Indus. Inc., 884 F. Supp.
937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995).
A review of the Court’s July 7, 2014, Memorandum and Order reveals
that Petitioner’s claims regarding his sentence and conviction were dismissed
for lack of jurisdiction, as Petitioner failed to meet the limited exception
recognized in In Re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251 (3d Cir. 1997), and
because there was no indication that Petitioner had requested permission
from the United States District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for leave
to file a successive petition, a possible avenue of relief still available to
Petitioner. (See Doc. 14). Jones’ challenges to the outcome of the disciplinary
hearings, which did not affect Jones’ good time credits, were, likewise,
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, as the outcome of the hearings had no
impact on the fact or length of Jones’ sentence or confinement, and could not
be challenged under §2241. Id. Finally, Petitioner’s challenges to his
continued placement in the SMU, which, are not challenges to the fact or
duration of his confinement, were also dismissed as claims not properly
asserted in a habeas petition brought under 28 U.S.C. §2241, but rather must
be pursued through the filing of a Bivens1 action. Id.
Petitioner argues in his motion for reconsideration that this Court’s
Court’s July 7, 2014, Memorandum and Order should be reconsidered on all
three grounds: an intervening change in controlling law, newly discovered
evidence, and clear error of law or fact. (Doc. 16). The Court, however, finds
Petitioner’s arguments meritless.
Petitioner initially argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
McQuiggan v Perkins, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1924 (2013), was an
intervening change in the controlling law regarding whether Petitioner’s
“actual innocence” claim meets the gateway exception to the AEDPA. (Doc.
16 at 5). In McQuiggan, the Supreme Court found that a habeas petitioner
can overcome the expiration of the AEDPA statute of limitations set forth in
28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(1) by making a convincing showing of actual innocence.
Id. McQuiggan, however, is inapplicable to the instant matter as the statute
of limitations is not at issue, and did not affect the basis upon which Jones’
§2241 petition was denied.
apprehension/fact and patently misunderstood Petitioner thereby causing a
need to correct this clear error.” (Doc. 16 at 6). Specifically, Petitioner
believes that this Court’s description of his claim of actual innocence as a
challenge to his “conviction” is in error because “there was no final
conviction...because there was no trial nor jury finding of guilt for the offense
and no conviction, thereby not meeting the requirements to make up a
‘judgement of conviction’ to even become final” and “since there was no
conviction at all, yet a sentence was rendered, a petition for writ of habeas
corpus under § 2241 is the only remedy that is available to Petitioner in this
situation.” Id. at 11.2 Petitioner attempts to bolster this argument in his
amendment to his motion for reconsideration, by stating that he was convicted
and sentenced “without being indicted, without a trial being had/made and
without a jury finding of guilt in violation of the Fifth and/or Sixth Amendments
of the U.S. Constitution; thereby making the above entitled instant habeas
petition a pre-trial or pre-conviction habeas petition.” (Doc. 19-1 at 2).
Petitioner’s conclusory statements, not only fail to raise a clear error of
law, they also fail to offer any support for a clear error of fact. Petitioner’s
arguments were previously raised in his petition for writ of habeas corpus and
rejected by this Court, as they can only be entertained by the sentencing
court. Thus, the Court finds Petitioner’s arguments a reiteration of a
previously presented arguments.
Finally, Petitioner argues that “the Court made a clear error of law in its
analysis/determination of the due process SMU challenge claim”, in that the
“Court found that challenges to the SMU are not appropriate under a § 2241
petition”, and that Petitioner “may challenge the execution of his sentence
under a §2241 habeas petition.” (Doc. 16 at 12-14).
Petitioner’s statement appears to refer to the sentencing enhancement
he received related to the amount of crack cocaine involved.
Once again, the Court finds Petitioner’s argument to be nothing more
than an attempt to re-litigate the matters already considered and disposed of
by this Court. Petitioner presents no evidence that this Court misunderstood
or misinterpreted the law as it applies to his situation. In fact, the Court finds
that Petitioner misinterprets federal habeas corpus law. Significantly, “the
‘core of habeas’ [is] the validity of the continued conviction or the fact or
length of the sentence.” Learner v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 542 (3d Cir. 2002).
Petitioner’s claim, however, relates to the validity of his confinement in the
SMU, not to his conviction, and to the duration of length of his placement in
the SMU, not to his sentence. This challenge “is to a condition of
confinement” and any ruling in Petitioner’s favor regarding the lawfulness of
his continued placement in the SMU “would not alter his sentence or undo his
conviction”, consequently, his claim is not properly brought under habeas.
See id. at p. 544.
This Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals have considered
similar challenges to a prisoner’s placement in the SMU at USP Lewisburg
and have repeatedly held that such claims are not cognizable under habeas
corpus. See Brown v. Bledsoe, 405 Fed. Appx. 575, 576–77 (3d Cir. 2011)
(finding no error in the District Court’s decision to dismiss Brown’s section
2241 petition challenging his transfer to the SMU at USP Lewisburg because
he “did not challenge the fact or the duration of his confinement” or show that
his transfer “was anything other than a ‘garden variety prison transfer’”);
Murray v. Bledsoe, 386 Fed. Appx. 139, 140 (3d Cir.2010) (affirming the
District Court’s order dismissing the habeas petition because “Murray’s
complaint regarding cell confinement [in the SMU at USP Lewisburg] does not
challenge the fact or duration of his imprisonment, nor does it having any
bearing on the validity of his conviction). Accordingly, this Court finds that its
Order of July 7, 2014, is not troubled by manifest errors of law or fact and
Petitioner has not presented anything new, which if previously presented,
might have affected that decision. Consequently, the motion for
reconsideration will be DENIED. An appropriate order shall follow.
s/ Malachy E. Mannion
MALACHY E. MANNION
United States District Judge
Dated: February 20, 2015
O:\Mannion\shared\MEMORANDA - DJ\CIVIL MEMORANDA\2013 MEMORANDA\13-3105-02.wpd
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