Bell v. Streeval
ORDER TRANSFERRING CASE: This case is TRANSFERRED to the WDVA for further proceedings. Additionally, appointed counsel, Emily Deck Harrill of the Federal Public Defender's Office, is hereby relieved as counsel from this case; and any pending motions are RENDERED AS MOOT. IT IS SO ORDERED. Signed by Honorable Mary Geiger Lewis on 02/16/2021.(dsto, ) [Transferred from South Carolina on 2/16/2021.]
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
JASON TYWANN BELL,
M. TRAVIS BRAGG,
Civil Action No. 4:18-03189-MGL
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TRANSFERRING PETITIONER’S PETITION
Pending before the Court is Petitioner Jason Tywann Bell’s (Bell) habeas corpus petition
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. In his petition, Bell seeks relief pursuant to Johnson v. United States, 576
U.S. 591 (2015). This Court appointed Bell counsel, who filed a Supplemental Petition contending
he is no longer a career offender, and under the tests outlined in United States v. Wheeler, 886 F.3d
415 (4th Cir. 2018), as applied in Lester v. Flournoy, 909 F.3d 708 (4th Cir. 2018), he is entitled
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina sentenced Bell
for the offenses of bank robbery and carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence. Bell
filed the instant Section 2241 petition while he was incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution,
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Bennettsville (FCI Bennettsville), located within the United States District Court for the District
of South Carolina. Accordingly, this Court originally possessed jurisdiction to adjudicate Bell’s
claims asserted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. However, Bell is no longer housed at FCI
According to the Bureau of Prison’s “Find an inmate” locator listing for Bell, which the
Court takes judicial notice of as per Fed. R. Evid. 201, Bell is now incarcerated at USP Lee. See
Find an inmate, Federal Bureau of Prisons, https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc (last visited Feb. 5,
2021). USP Lee is located in Pennington Gap, Virginia. See USP Lee, Federal Bureau of Prisons,
https://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/lee (last visited Feb. 5, 2021). And, USP Lee and its
warden are within the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of
Virginia (the WDVA). Id.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
“The federal habeas statute straightforwardly provides . . . the proper respondent to a
habeas petition is ‘the person who has custody over [the petitioner].’” Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542
U.S. 426, 434 (2004) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2242). “The writ, or order to show cause shall be
directed to the person having custody of the person detained.” 28 U.S.C. § 2243. “The consistent
use of the definite article in reference to the custodian indicates . . . there is generally only one
proper respondent to a given prisoner’s habeas petition. This custodian, moreover, is ‘the person’
with the ability to produce the prisoner’s body before the habeas court.” Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. at
434–35 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2242).
Ascertaining the proper respondent is critical because “[t]he writ of habeas corpus does not
act upon the prisoner who seeks relief, but upon the person who holds him in what is alleged to be
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unlawful custody.” Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 494–95 (1973).
“The whole force of the writ is spent upon the respondent.” Id. at 495 (citation omitted) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
“District courts are limited to granting habeas relief ‘within their respective jurisdictions.’”
Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. at 442 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a)). The Supreme Court has “interpreted this
language to require ‘nothing more than that the [C]ourt issuing the writ have jurisdiction over the
custodian.’” Id. (quoting Braden, 410 U.S. at 495). “[T]he custodian’s absence from the territorial
jurisdiction of the district court is fatal to habeas jurisdiction.” Id. at 445.
As the Court noted above, Bell and his custodian are located in the WDVA. But, the Court
does not have jurisdiction over that custodian. Consequently, the Court concludes the instant
petition must be transferred to the WDVA.
Bell, citing an unpublished Fourth Circuit opinion, Sweat v. White, No. 87-6080, 1987 WL
44445 (4th Cir. Sept. 23, 1987), argues despite Bell’s transfer to the WDVA, “this Court retains
jurisdiction over [his] case and continued venue is proper here.” Bell’s Resp. to Resp’t Mot. to
Dismiss at 1. The Court finds Bell’s argument unpersuasive, as the Court in Sweat did not have
the benefit of Rumsfeld in 1987. Rumsfeld, decided in 2004, squarely addressed the requirement
the adjudicating Court in a habeas petition have jurisdiction over a custodian that has legal
authority to effectuate a prisoner’s release. See Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. at 445 (“[T]he custodian’s
absence from the territorial jurisdiction of the district court is fatal to habeas jurisdiction.”).
In sum, because this Court lacks jurisdiction over Bell’s custodian, USP Lee’s warden, this
Court has no authority to entertain his petition. Thus, this action must be transferred to the WDVA.
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This case is TRANSFERRED to the WDVA for further proceedings. Additionally,
appointed counsel, Emily Deck Harrill of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, is hereby relieved
as counsel from this case; and any pending motions are RENDERED AS MOOT.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed this 16th day of February 2021, in Columbia, South Carolina.
s/ Mary Geiger Lewis
MARY GEIGER LEWIS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NOTICE OF RIGHT TO APPEAL
The parties are hereby notified of the right to appeal this Order within sixty days from the
date hereof, pursuant to Rules 3 and 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.
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