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Lema v. English

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 12, 2019

PEDRO FELIPE LEMA, Petitioner,
v.
N. C. ENGLISH, Warden, USP-Leavenworth, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. LUNGSTRUM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is a petition for habeas corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner, a prisoner in federal custody at USP-Leavenworth, proceeds pro se. Petitioner challenges his designation as a career offender. The Court has screened his Petition (Docs. 1, 2) under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases, foll. 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and dismisses this action without prejudice for lack of statutory jurisdiction.

         Background

         Petitioner was sentenced to a 360-month term of imprisonment in the Southern District of Florida on April 30, 1997. United States v. Sanchez, No. 1:96-cr-00765-DMM-4, Doc. 81 (S.D. Fla. April 30, 1997). Petitioner filed a § 2255 motion on September 20, 2000, (Civil Action #00-3524-CV-DMM) which was denied on August 14, 2001. Id. at Docs. 121, 127. Petitioner filed a subsequent petition on December 16, 2002, which was construed as a § 2255 motion, deemed an improper successive petition, and dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Petitioner failed to seek authorization from the Eleventh Circuit. Lema v. United States, No. 1:02-cv-23580-DMM, Doc. 5 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 17, 2003). Petitioner filed a third § 2255 motion on March 8, 2016, (Civil No. 16-CV-20838-DMM) which was denied as successive on April 19, 2016. United States v. Sanchez, No. 1:96-cr-00765-DMM-4, at Docs. 160, 161. Petitioner filed a fourth § 2255 motion on July 5, 2017 (Civil No. 17-cv-22498), which was denied on August 29, 2017, as an unauthorized successive motion. Id. at Docs. 162, 163.

         On April 4, 2016, Petitioner sought authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which was denied on April 25, 2016. In re: Pedro Lema, No. 16-11490-D (11th Cir. April 25, 2016). On May 23, 2016, Petitioner again sought authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which was denied on June 16, 2016. In re: Pedro Lema, No. 16-12927-J (11th Cir. June 16, 2016). On April 2, 2018, Petitioner sought authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In re: Pedro Lema, No. 18-11372-E (11th Cir.). Petitioner's application was dismissed in part and denied in part on May 2, 2018. Id.

         On March 7, 2019, Petitioner filed the instant petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that his prior conviction does not qualify him for the career offender sentence enhancement in light of the decisions in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), United States v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016), and Salinas v. United States, 547 U.S. 188 (2006). Petitioner argues that based upon statutory interpretation cases from the United States Supreme Court that were decided after his first § 2255 motion, his prior conviction is no longer a “controlled substance offense, ” and therefore he is being illegally detained. Petitioner further argues that he is actually innocent of his career offender sentence because his prior drug offense can no longer be considered a “controlled substance offense.” Petitioner asks the Court to vacate his sentence and order resentencing without the career offender enhancement. Petitioner invokes the savings clause of § 2255(e), arguing that § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

         Analysis

         The Court must first determine whether § 2241 was the proper vehicle to bring Petitioner's claims. Because “that issue impacts the court's statutory jurisdiction, it is a threshold matter.” Sandlain v. English, 2017 WL 4479370 (10th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017) (unpublished) (finding that whether Mathis is retroactive goes to the merits and the court must first decide whether § 2241 is the proper vehicle to bring the claim) (citing Abernathy v. Wandes, 713 F.3d 538, 557 (10th Cir. 2013)).

         A federal prisoner seeking release from allegedly illegal confinement may file a motion to “vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A motion under § 2255 must be filed in the district where the petitioner was convicted and sentence imposed. Sines v. Wilner, 609 F.3d 1070, 1073 (10th Cir. 2010). Generally, the motion remedy under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides “the only means to challenge the validity of a federal conviction following the conclusion of direct appeal.” Hale v. Fox, 829 F.3d 1162, 1165 (10th Cir. 2016), cert. denied sub nom. Hale v. Julian, 137 S.Ct. 641 (2017). However, under the “savings clause” in § 2255(e), a federal prisoner may file an application for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in the district of confinement if the petitioner demonstrates that the remedy provided by § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).

         Petitioner argues that he is entitled to relief based on Mathis, and that the decision was decided after his appeal and initial § 2255 motion. Petitioner argues that he is entitled to relief due to a new interpretation of statutory law that is made retroactive, citing Mathis and Hinkle. When a petitioner is denied relief on his first motion under § 2255, he cannot file a second § 2255 motion unless he can point to either “newly discovered evidence” or “a new rule of constitutional law, ” as those terms are defined in § 2255(h). Haskell v. Daniels, 510 Fed.Appx. 742, 744 (10th Cir. 2013) (unpublished) (citing Prost v. Anderson, 636 F.3d 578, 581 (10th Cir. 2011)). Preclusion from bringing a second motion under § 2255(h) does not establish that the remedy in § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective. Changes in relevant law were anticipated by Congress and are grounds for successive collateral review only under the carefully-circumscribed conditions set forth in § 2255(h).

         The Tenth Circuit has rejected an argument that the “current inability to assert the claims in a successive § 2255 motion-due to the one-year time-bar and the restrictions identified in § 2255(h)-demonstrates that the § 2255 remedial regime is inadequate and ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Jones v. Goetz, No. 17-1256, 2017 WL 4534760, at *5 (10th Cir. 2017) (unpublished) (citations omitted); see also Brown v. Berkebile, 572 Fed.Appx. 605, 608 (10th Cir. 2014) (unpublished) (finding that petitioner has not attempted to bring a second § 2255 motion, and even if he were precluded from doing so under § 2255(h), that “does not establish the remedy in § 2255 is inadequate”) (citing Caravalho v. Pugh, 177 F.3d 1177, 1179 (10th Cir. 1999) and Prost, 636 F.3d at 586). If § 2255 could be deemed “inadequate or ineffective” “any time a petitioner is barred from raising a meritorious second or successive challenge to his conviction-subsection (h) would become a nullity, a ‘meaningless gesture.'” Prost, 636 F.3d at 586; see also Hale, 829 F.3d at 1174 (“Because Mr. Hale cannot satisfy § 2255(h), he cannot, under Prost, satisfy § 2255(e), and § 2241 review must be denied.”).

         Petitioner acknowledges that the decision in Mathis is a new interpretation of statutory law. (Doc. 2, at 15.) The AEDPA “did not provide a remedy for second or successive § 2255 motions based on intervening judicial interpretations of statutes.” Abernathy v. Wandes, 713 F.3d 538, 547 (10th Cir. 2013), cert. denied 134 S.Ct. 1874 (2014). However, prisoners who are barred from bringing second or successive § 2255 motions may still be able to petition for habeas relief under the savings clause in § 2255(e). Id. However, § 2255 has been found to be “inadequate or ineffective” only in “extremely limited circumstances.” Id. (citations omitted).

         The Tenth Circuit has held that “it is the infirmity of the § 2255 remedy itself, not the failure to use it or to prevail under it, that is determinative. To invoke the savings clause, there must be something about the initial § 2255 procedure that itself is inadequate or ineffective for testing a challenge to detention.” Prost, 636 F.3d at 589 (stating that “the fact that Mr. Prost or his counsel may not have thought of a Santos-type argument earlier doesn't speak to the relevant question whether § 2255 itself provided him with an adequate and effective remedial mechanism for testing such an argument”). “The savings clause doesn't guarantee results, only process, ” and “the possibility of an erroneous result-the denial of relief that should have been granted-does not render the procedural mechanism Congress provided for bringing that claim (whether it be 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, 2201, 2255, or otherwise) an inadequate or ineffective remedial vehicle for testing its merits within the plain meaning of the savings clause.” Id. (emphasis in original).

         Petitioner argues that he meets the savings clause tests adopted in other circuits. (Doc. 2, at 7, 12-13.) Petitioner acknowledges that there is a split among the circuits regarding the applicability of the savings clause, and urges the Court to issue its own interpretation.[1]Id. at 7-8. However, this Court is bound by Tenth Circuit precedent which addresses the question of “whether a new Supreme Court decision interpreting a statute that may undo a prisoner's conviction renders the prisoner's initial § 2255 motion ‘inadequate or ineffective.'” Haskell, 510 Fed.Appx. at 744. The Tenth Circuit answered the question in the negative in Prost, holding that if “a petitioner's ...


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