Savoca v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 296 MOTION to Withdraw Reference; granting 296 MOTION to Stay. Signed by Judge David A. Faber on 10/13/2016. (cc: attys) (tmr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
THOMAS J. SAVOCA,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:16-06666
(Criminal No. 2:03-00194-01)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the court is the motion of the United States
to withdraw referral of the case to a magistrate judge and to stay
(ECF No. 296).
Savoca has filed a response to
the government’s motion, indicating that he opposes a stay of this
(ECF no. 306).
Savoca has filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct
his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, relying on the holding
of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), wherein the
Court held unconstitutionally vague the residual clause of the
Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)
(defining “violent felony” to include an offense that “otherwise
involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of
physical injury to another”).
The ACCA residual clause
invalidated in Johnson is identical to the residual clause of the
definition of “crime of violence” in the career offender
guidelines, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2).
Savoca was sentenced as a
career offender under the sentencing guidelines and he contends
that the Johnson holding should be applied to the career ofender
On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in
Beckles v. United States, No. 15-8544, to address three questions:
(1) whether Johnson applies retroactively to collateral cases
challenging federal sentences enhanced under the residual clause
in United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.2(a)(2); (2) whether
Johnson's constitutional holding applies to the residual clause in
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), thereby rendering challenges to sentences
enhanced under it cognizable on collateral review; and (3) whether
mere possession of a sawed-off shotgun, an offense listed as a
“crime of violence” only in commentary to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2,
remains a “crime of violence” after Johnson.
The government seeks a stay of Savoca’s § 2255 motion on
the ground that Beckles will likely decide the issues raised
Savoca contends that his motion “should be decided by
this Court as quickly as possible” because whether Savoca is
“properly categorized as a Career Offender is a significant
question with potentially significant consequences to, inter alia,
the term of imprisonment imposed for the offense of conviction.”
ECF No. 306 at p.3.
Savoca’s memorandum in opposition to the
motion to stay does not specifically address how much time he has
served in custody or the guideline sentencing range that would be
applicable if he is granted habeas relief.
“[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power
inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes
on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants.”
U.S. 248, 254 (1936).
Landis v. North American Co., 299
In exercising discretion to stay a case, a
court “must weigh competing interests.”
Id. at 255; see also
Central W. Va. Reg'l Airport Auth., Inc. v. Triad Eng'g, No.
2:15-cv-11818, 2015 WL 6758233 (S.D.W. Va. Nov. 5, 2015)
“The party seeking a stay must justify it by
clear and convincing circumstances outweighing potential harm to
the party against whom it is operative.”
Williford v. Armstrong
World Indus., Inc., 715 F.2d 124, 127 (4th Cir. 1983); cf. Yong v.
I.N.S., 208 F.3d 1116, 1120-21 (9th Cir. 2000) (“habeas
proceedings implicate special considerations that place unique
limits on a district court's authority to stay a case in the
interests of judicial economy”).
Accordingly, this court should weigh the interests of
judicial economy in granting a stay versus the potential prejudice
The BOP’s Inmate Locator indicates that Savoca’s
release date without relief under § 2255 is October 22, 2092.
Savoca is currently serving a 384 term of imprisonment imposed by
this court, as well as a seventy-year term of imprisonment imposed
by the United States District Court for the Northern District of
Even if the career offender enhancement is removed from his
sentences in both cases, Savoca still faces a lengthy term of
Therefore, he will not be prejudiced by a short
stay pending a decision in Beckles, which is expected by mid-June
Furthermore, given that defendant has a pending motion
before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to
file a second or successive petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on the
same grounds raised herein, see Case No. 16-3718 (ECF No. 1), a
stay of this matter pending a decision in Beckles will help to
avoid the possibility of inconsistent results.*
Accordingly, given the lack of prejudice to Savoca versus
the benefits of staying this matter as discussed above, the motion
to stay is GRANTED insofar as it requests a stay of this matter
pending a decision in Beckles.
However, the motion to withdraw
the reference to the magistrate judge is DENIED.
The matter is
hereby STAYED and the Clerk is directed to remove this matter from
the court’s active docket.
Within seven (7) days of the Court
rendering a decision in Beckles, the United States is directed to
“The Sixth Circuit favors allowing an inmate who is
raising a Johnson/Guidelines challenge to file a successive §
2255 petition, but then recommends the district court stay the
action pending Beckles.” United States v. Bacon, No. CR-10-025JLQ, 2016 WL 4803193, *1 (E.D. Wash. Sept. 7, 2016) (citing In
re: Embry, 2016 WL 4056056 (6th Cir. July 29, 2016)).
file a motion seeking to lift the stay and reinstate this matter
to the court’s active docket.
The Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Memorandum
Opinion and Order to counsel of record.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 13th day of October, 2016.
David A. Faber
Senior United States District Judge
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