United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
DAVID EUGENE CLARK, Reg. No. 31839-001, Petitioner,
WALTER WOODS, Respondent.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Eugene Clark (“Clark”), a federal inmate at the
Maxwell Federal Prison Camp, filed this pro se
petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2241 on July 25, 2019. Doc. # 1. In his petition, Clark
challenges his 2015 convictions in the United States District
Court for the Northern District of Alabama for possession
with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking
crime. Clark argues that his convictions are void
because the United States did not have Article III standing
because it did not allege or prove any “injury in
fact.” See Doc. # 1 at 3-4. For the reasons
that follow, the undersigned concludes that this action
should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
courts have “an obligation to look behind the label of
a motion filed by a pro se inmate and determine
whether the motion is, in effect, cognizable under a
different remedial statutory framework.” United
States v. Jordan, 915 F.2d 622, 624-25 (11th Cir. 1990).
Although this action is brought as a habeas petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2241, the court must consider whether this
action is properly styled as such, or if it is more
appropriately considered as a motion to vacate under 28
U.S.C. § 2255.
2241 provides an avenue for challenges to matters such as the
administration of parole, prison disciplinary actions, prison
transfers, and certain types of detention. See, e.g.,
Antonelli v. Warden, U.S.P. Atlanta, 542 F.3d 1348,
1351-52 (11th Cir. 2008) (petition challenging decision of
federal Parole Commission is properly brought under §
2241); Bishop v. Reno, 210 F.3d 1295, 1304 n.14
(11th Cir. 2000) (petition challenging Bureau of Prisons'
administration of service credits, including calculation,
awarding, and withholding, involves execution rather than
imposition of sentence, and thus is a matter for habeas
corpus). For purposes of venue, petitions properly filed
under § 2241 must be brought in the district in which
the petitioner is incarcerated. Rumsfeld v. Padilla,
542 U.S. 426, 442-43 (2004).
contrast, 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) states:
A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established
by an Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon
the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court
was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the
sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or
is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the
court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or
correct the sentence.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) (emphasis added). For actions
properly considered under § 2255, venue and jurisdiction
lie only in the district of conviction. 28 U.S.C. §
self-described habeas petition challenges the validity of his
convictions. Generally, a federal prisoner must bring any
collateral attack on the legality of his conviction or
sentence through a motion to vacate under § 2255 rather
than a petition for writ of habeas corpus under § 2241.
See McCarthan v. Dir. of Goodwill Indus.-Suncoast,
Inc., 851 F.3d 1076, 1081 (11th Cir. 2017); Venta v.
Warden, FCC Coleman-Low, 2017 WL 4280936, at *1 (11th
Cir. 2017). A petitioner challenging the legality of his
federal detention may do so under § 2241 only
if he shows that § 2255 would be an “inadequate or
ineffective to test the legality of his detention.”
See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) (the so called
“saving clause”); see also Johnson v.
Warden, 737 Fed.Appx. 989, 990-91 (11th Cir. 2018).
claims challenging his convictions fall squarely within the
realm of injuries § 2255 addresses. When a federal
prisoner brings “a traditional claim attacking his
[conviction or] sentence that he could have brought in a
[§ 2255] motion to vacate, the remedy by [such] motion
is adequate and effective to test the legality of his
detention. . . . Allowing a prisoner with a claim that is
cognizable in a [§ 2255] motion to vacate to access
[§ 2241] nullifies the procedural hurdles of section
2255 and undermines the venue provisions.”
McCarthan, 851 F.3d at 1090. Thus, regardless of the
label Clark has placed on his pleadings, his petition
challenging his convictions must be construed as a motion to
vacate under § 2255.
2255 remains Clark's exclusive remedy to bring his
challenge to his convictions. Because he challenges a
judgment entered in the Northern District of Alabama, any
jurisdiction to consider the § 2255 motion lies only
with the District Court for the Northern District of Alabama,
as the court of conviction. See 28 U.S.C. §
2255(a). This court, which sits in the Middle District of
Alabama, lacks jurisdiction to consider a § 2255 motion
challenging convictions entered by the United States District
Court for Northern District of Alabama.
28 U.S.C. § 1631, a court that finds it lacks
jurisdiction to entertain a civil action may, if it is in the
interest of justice, transfer such action to any other court
in which the action could have been brought when it was
filed. A significant factor in the interest-of-justice
analysis is whether a denial of a transfer would effectively
bar the litigant from relief in the proper court. See
Guenther v. Holt, 173 F.3d 1328, 1331 (11th Cir. 1999).
This court takes notice that in June 2018, Clark filed a 28
U.S.C. § 2255 motion in the United States District Court
for Northern District of Alabama in which he presented claims
similar to those raised in this action. See Clark v.
United States, No. 4:18-CV-8021-VEH (N.D. Ala.). That
court found Clark's § 2255 motion to be time-barred
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f) and dismissed the motion. Any
subsequent § 2255 motion presented to the Northern
District of Alabama asserting the same claims would
unquestionably be time-barred as well. Further, such a motion
would amount to a successive § 2255 motion, for which
Clark must obtain Eleventh Circuit permission to file.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b)(3)(A) &
2255(h). Clark presents no evidence that he has obtained
permission from the Eleventh Circuit to file a successive
§ 2255 motion. Under the circumstances, this court finds
that the interest of justice does not warrant a § 1631
transfer to the Northern District of Alabama and that
dismissal of this action is proper.