United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
LOVELACE BLACKBURN SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is presently pending before the court on Petition for a
Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C.
§§ 2241 and 2255(e), filed by petitioner Robert
Lester James. (Doc. 1.) Respondent, Warden W.T. Taylor, has
responded, (doc. 14), and James has filed a reply, (doc. 16).
Upon consideration of the record, the submissions of the
parties, and the relevant law, the court is of the opinion
that the Petition is due to be denied based on the
court's lack of jurisdiction.
SECTION 2241 STANDARD
regard to a § 2241 petition, the Eleventh Circuit has
established the following:
This Court . . . has recognized that a prisoner may file a
petition under § 2241 challenging the validity
of his conviction or sentence if his § 2255 motion was
“inadequate or ineffective” to test the validity
of his conviction or sentence. See Bryant [v.
Warden, FCC Coleman-Medium], 738 F.3d [1253, ] 1263
[(11th Cir. 2013)]. This conclusion stems from the so-called
“Savings Clause” of § 2255, which provides:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus [on] behalf of a
prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion
pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it
appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by
motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such court
has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy
by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality
of his detention.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).
We have formulated a test for determining inadequacy or
ineffectiveness where a petitioner claims he was sentenced
above the statutory maximum. In Bryant, we held that
in such circumstances, a prisoner may file a § 2241
petition challenging the validity of his sentence only if (1)
during the pendency of the § 2255 petition, circuit
precedent squarely foreclosed the argument being made in the
§ 2241 petition, (2) subsequent to the § 2255
petition, the Supreme Court overturned that circuit
precedent, (3) the new Supreme Court rule applies
retroactively on collateral review, (4) the effect of the
retroactive rule is that the prisoner has been sentenced
above the statutory maximum authorized by Congress, and (5)
the Savings Clause reaches the kind of claim raised by the
petitioner. 738 F.3d at 1274. The chief benefit of the
Savings Clause is that, contrary to § 2255(h)'s
narrow grounds for filing a successive petition, a
retroactive change in Supreme Court law that is not of a
constitutional dimension can nonetheless provide relief to a
prisoner. But the Savings Clause is a threshold
jurisdictional inquiry - if a petitioner cannot satisfy the
Savings Clause test, we lack jurisdiction to hear a §
2241 petition challenging the validity of a conviction or
sentence. See McCarthan v. Warden, FCI Estill, 811
F.3d 1237, 1250 (11th Cir. 2016).
Cortes-Morales v. Hastings, 827 F.3d 1009, 1014-15
(11th Cir. 2016)(emphasis in original); see also Brown v.
Warden, FCC Coleman-Low, 817 F.3d 1278, 1283 (11th Cir.
2016)(quoting Bryant, 738 F.3d at
the savings clause in § 2255(e) may open the portal to a
§ 2241 petition is a threshold jurisdictional issue that
must be decided before delving into the merits of the
petitioner's claim and the applicable defenses. Because
[James] did not satisfy the Bryant test, the Court
lacks jurisdiction to consider his Petition on the
merits.” Garner v. Drew, No. 1:15-CV-255-WSD,
2016 WL 5341779, at *3 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 23, 2016)(citing
Bryant, 738 F.3d at 1262)(internal quotations,
citations, and alterations omitted).
February 22, 2006, James was indicted on a single count of
possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1) and § 924(e). United States v.
James, No. 3:06-CR-0062-TJC-MCR, doc. 1 (M.D. Fla. Feb.
22, 2006)(hereinafter James I). The Indictment
charged that James had six prior felony convictions, which
included a 1976 conviction for attempted robbery in Orange
County, Florida; a 1979 conviction for armed robbery in
Brevard County, Florida; a 1979 conviction for robbery in
Orange County, Florida; and a 1988 conviction for aggravated
battery in Orange County, Florida. Id. at
March 2007, James entered into a Plea Agreement in which he
agreed to plead guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm
by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(1) and § 924(e). Id., doc. 55 (March 21,
2007). As part of his plea agreement, James waived the right
to appeal his “sentence or to challenge it collaterally
on any ground.” Id. at 7-8.
court accepted James's plea. Id., doc. 57 (April
sentencing the court found:
There is - unless I'm advised to the contrary, there is a
180-month minimum mandatory that's applicable in this
case. . . .
. . .
. . . [B]ecause of the minimum mandatory under 924(e), the
lowest sentence available is 180 months of imprisonment. So,
therefore, the advisory guideline range effectively becomes
180 months to 210 months of imprisonment, which is indicated.
. . .
I did not see any basis to relieve Mr. James from the
requirements of the minimum mandatory. The law requires three
qualifying convictions. There is no time limit. There's
no aging of those convictions ...