Davidson v. Baltazar
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable Matthew W. Brann on 10/6/2017. (jn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MUHAMMAD , a/k/a
WILLIAM DELANE DAVIDSON,
OCTOBER 6, 2017
Muhaymin Shabazz Muhammad a/k/a William Delane Davidson
(hereinafter Davidson), an inmate presently confined at the Canaan United States
Penitentiary Waymart, Pennsylvania (USP-Canaan), filed this pro se petition for
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner’s request to
proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. Named as Respondent is Warden
Baltazar of USP-Canaan.
Davidson states that he pled guilty to multiple charges, including first degree
murder, rape, and manslaughter on June 7, 1984 in the Superior Court for the
District of Columbia. As a result of his plea, Davidson was sentenced to a sixty-
five (65) year to life term of imprisonment. Her acknowledges that his conviction
and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal.
Davidson’s pending action claims he is entitled to federal habeas corpus
relief under the grounds announced in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S.___ , 135
S. Ct. 2551 (2015) ; Welch v. United States, __ U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 1257, 1262,
(2016), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016).1
Petitioner contends that his sentence was improperly enhanced in violation of
Johnson. Davidson’s petition includes a related claim that he was provided with
ineffective assistance of counsel for not advising him which charges were nonviolent felonies. 2
Title 28, United States Code § 2241, vests the federal district courts with
jurisdiction to grant a writ of habeas corpus to persons in custody in violation of
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). A
habeas corpus petition under § 2241 “allows a federal prisoner to challenge the
‘execution’ of his sentence.” Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235,
241 (3d Cir. 2005). Federal habeas corpus review may be employed by a prisoner
Petitioner acknowledges that he previously raised a Montgomery claim via an unsuccessful
motion with the D. C. Superior Court pursuant to D.C. Code. Ann. § 23-110. See Doc. 1, ¶ 11.
Petitioner’s motion to supplement (Doc. 6) is granted and his attached supplement has been
to challenge either the fact or duration of his confinement in prison. Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973), Telford v. Hepting, 980 F.2d 745, 748 (3d Cir.
1993). However, relief is available only “where the deprivation of rights is such
that it necessarily impacts the fact or length of detention.” Leamer v. Fauver, 288
F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002).
Habeas corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4
(“Preliminary Review”) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United
States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (2004). See, e.g., Mutope v.
Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 2007 WL 846559 *2 (M.D. Pa.
March 19, 2007)(Kosik, J.). The provisions of Rule 4 are applicable to § 2241
petitions under Rule 1(b)). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491 F. Supp. 156, 158-59
(M.D. Pa. 1979).
Rule 4 provides in pertinent part: “If it plainly appears from the petition and
any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court,
the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” A
petition may be dismissed without review of an answer “when the petition is
frivolous, or obviously lacking in merit, or where. . . the necessary facts can be
determined from the petition itself. . . .” Gorko v. Holt, 2005 WL 1138479
*1(M.D. Pa. May 13, 2005)(McClure, J.)(quoting Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134,
141 (6th Cir. 1970).
Since he initiated his action before this Court, Davidson is apparently
arguing that he may bring his present claim via a federal habeas corpus petition. It
would appear that it is his contention that this Court has jurisdiction over his
§ 2241 action by virtue of his ongoing detention at USP-Canaan.
It is well settled that “federal courts lack jurisdiction to entertain the habeas
corpus petition of a District of Columbia prisoner, absent a showing that the
applicant’s remedy pursuant to § 23-110 is ‘inadequate or ineffective to test the
legality of’ the detention.” Austin v. Miner, 235 Fed. Appx. 48, 50 (3d Cir. 2007).
A determination as to whether the remedy available to a prisoner under
§ 23-110 is inadequate or ineffective hinges on the same considerations enabling
federal prisoners to seek habeas relief. See id.
For example, the § 23-110 remedy is not inadequate or ineffective simply
because the applicant is prevented from using the remedy a second time to litigate
or re-litigate because relief has been previously denied. See Wilson v. Office of the
Chairperson, 892 F. Supp. 277, 280 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Moreover, to allow a
petitioner to file a habeas petition merely because he already has sought relief
under § 23-110 would obliterate congressional attempts to promote finality in
Triestman v. United States, 124 F.3d 361 (2nd Cir. 1997), and In re
Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997) addressed what circumstances make a
post conviction remedy inadequate and ineffective. The legislative limitations
(either the statute of limitations or gatekeeping provisions outlined supra at 4-5)
placed upon post conviction remedies simply do not render the remedy inadequate
or ineffective so as to authorize pursuit of a federal habeas corpus petition.
Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251. “To hold otherwise would simply effect a transfer of
forum for the adjudication of successive challenges to the validity of a conviction.”
Kennemore v. True, Civil No. 98-1175, slip op. at 6. (M.D. Pa. July 28,
Both the Triestman and Dorsainvil courts held that the “inadequate and
ineffective” requirement(thus allowing a petitioner to bring a § 2241 habeas corpus
action) occurs where the denial of a habeas action would raise serious
constitutional issues. Triestman, 124 F.3d at 377; Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 249.
The serious constitutional issue was that a change in substantive law rendered the
conduct for which petitioner was convicted no longer criminal. Triestman, 124
F.3d at 366; Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d at 251. Thus, these cases set a high bar for what
a court will consider a serious constitutional issue sufficient to allow a petitioner to
bring a § 2241 petition to challenge a D.C. conviction or sentence.
In Johnson, the United States Supreme Court held that the residual clause of
the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) sentence enhancement provision was
unconstitutionally vague. See United States v. Terry, No. 14-cv-1006, 2015 WL
4255527 (W. D. Pa. July 14, 2015). Welch recognized that Johnson is a new
substantive rule of constitutional law that is retroactively applicable in a collateral
attack on a final conviction.
Here, Davidson challenges the validity of his District of Columbia
sentence. Unlike Dorsainvil, Petitioner’s present claim as stated does not establish
that it is premised on any intervening change in substantive law that would negate
the criminal nature of his conduct with respect to his conviction. Fundamental to
Dorsainvil was the fact that the petitioner may actually be innocent of the crime
charged. In the matter at bar, Davidson has failed to present any facts suggesting
that he was not involved in the alleged underlying criminal activity. Nor has
Davidson shown that he is unable to present his claims via a collateral proceeding
in the District of Columbia.
Based upon Petitioner’s representations, the sentencing court has not been
afforded opportunity to address the validity of his pending Johnson based
argument. This Court agrees with the approach taken by Wood v. Maiorana, 2015
WL 4663267 *4 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 6, 2015) (Caputo, J.) and Ruiz v. Ebbert, 2015 WL
5997105 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 14, 2015)(Conaboy, J.), which recognized that since §
2255 plainly provides an avenue for litigating the merits of a Johnson based
sentencing claim, such an argument should be addressed by the court which is
ultimately the most appropriate forum, that is to say, the sentencing court.
Pursuant then to the above discussion, a § 23-110 motion is the only vehicle
available to Davidson. See Austin, 235 Fed. Appx. at 51 (there is no limitation to a
prisoner bringing a second or successive § 23-110 motion). Based on the
foregoing analysis, Petitioner may not assert his present claims in a § 2241 action
before this Court. Accordingly, the petition will be dismissed without prejudice.3
An appropriate Order follows.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge
Petitioner is free to assert his pending claim via a § 23-110 action before the District of
Columbia Superior Court.
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