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Parker v. Hazelwood

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 9, 2019

Kaniyn Parker
v.
Robert Hazelwood, FCI Berlin Warden

          ORDER

          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Kaniyn Parker, who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg, Virginia, brought this petition for a writ of habeas corpus while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Berlin, New Hampshire. See 28 U.S.C. § 2241. His petition challenges the sentencing court's application of the career offender sentencing enhancement to him under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”). Parker argues that the sentencing court improperly counted his three prior state drug convictions as predicates for the career offender enhancement. On March 19, 2019, this court granted the government's motion to dismiss as to one theory of relief raised in Parker's petition and ordered the parties to provide further briefing on Parker's second theory of relief. Both parties have since filed supplemental pleadings. For the following reasons, the court dismisses Parker's petition without prejudice to his refiling in the proper jurisdiction.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2004, Parker pleaded guilty in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to import five or more kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a), 960(b)(1)(B), and 963. United States v. Parker, No. 1:03-cr-20859-PCH-3 (S.D. Fla.) (ECF nos. 49, 55). The Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) recommended that he be sentenced as a “career offender” under the Guidelines based on three prior felony drug convictions in Connecticut occurring in 1993, 1996, and 2003. See doc. no. 13-4 at 18-22 (PSR); U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b) (career offender enhancement).

         Parker objected to this enhancement, arguing that the 2003 conviction should not be considered because it was on appeal and that the 1996 conviction did not qualify as a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines because it involved simple possession. See Parker v. United States, 1:05-cv-20844-PCH (S.D. Fla.) (ECF no. 9 at 49); see also U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(b) (defining “controlled substance offense”). The sentencing court disagreed, found that the state convictions qualified as career offender predicates, and applied the enhancement. Parker v. United States, 1:05-cv-20844-PCH (S.D. Fla.) (ECF no. 9 at 49). It sentenced Parker to 262 months of imprisonment and five years of supervised release. Parker did not directly appeal his conviction or sentence, which became final before the Supreme Court made the Guidelines advisory in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).

         Parker subsequently filed two motions for relief under 28 U.S.C § 2255 in the Southern District of Florida, one in 2005 and one in 2013. See Parker v. United States, 1:05-cv-20844-PCH (S.D. Fla.); Parker v. United States, 1:13-cv-23635-PCH (S.D. Fla.). Neither motion was successful.

         Parker filed the instant petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in 2017. He argues that none of his prior state convictions qualify as career offender predicates. He contends that his 2003 conviction should not have been considered a predicate offense because it was pending on appeal in state court at the time of his federal sentencing (“Claim 1”). Parker also argues that his 1993 and 1996 convictions do not qualify as predicate offenses, relying on Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) (“Claim 2”). He requests that his sentence be vacated and he be resentenced without the career offender enhancement.

         In 2018, the government moved to dismiss the petition. While that motion was pending, Parker notified the court that he had been transferred from Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) Berlin to FCI Petersburg in Virginia. Doc. no. 10. In March 2019, the court issued an order on the government's motion to dismiss. Doc. no. 11. The court granted the government's motion to dismiss with respect to Claim 1 and denied it without prejudice as to Claim 2. Id. at 15. The court ordered the parties to provide supplemental briefing regarding Claim 2 and appointed counsel to represent Parker.[1] Both parties then filed supplemental pleadings.

         DISCUSSION

         The government argues that the court must dismiss Parker's petition without prejudice because the court lacks jurisdiction to issue the relief Parker has requested. There are two jurisdictional limitations on a district court's authority to grant writs of habeas corpus: the “immediate-custodian rule” and the “territorial-jurisdiction rule.” Gonzalez v. Grondolsky, 152 F.Supp.3d 39, 45 (D. Mass. 2016); see also Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 445-46 (2004). Both rules emanate from statutory language.

         The immediate-custodian rule provides that the proper respondent in a habeas challenge to physical confinement is “the warden of the facility where the prisoner is being held, not the Attorney General or some other remote supervisory official.” Padilla, 542 U.S. at 435. This rule derives from the text of 28 U.S.C. § 2242, which provides that the proper respondent is “the person who has custody over” the petitioner. 28 U.S.C. § 2242; see also Gonzalez, 152 F.Supp.3d at 43. This principle is echoed in 28 U.S.C. § 2243. It states that the court should direct a writ to “the person having custody of the person detained.” 28 U.S.C. § 2243.

         Identifying the proper respondent-the immediate custodian- is crucial because “the 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 unlawful custody.” Gonzalez, 152 F.Supp.3d at 43 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). The First Circuit has said that it is “settled beyond cavil that when a prisoner petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, he must name as the respondent the superintendent of the facility in which he is being held.” Vasquez v. Reno, 233 F.3d 688, 691 (1st Cir. 2000). This is so because that person “has day-to-day control over the petitioner and is able to produce [him] before the habeas court.” Id.

         Under the territorial-jurisdiction rule, [2] the court issuing the writ must “have jurisdiction over the custodian.” Padilla, 542 U.S. at 442 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Vasquez, 233 F.3d at 690 (observing that court issuing the writ “must have personal jurisdiction over the person who holds the petitioner in custody”). This rule originates from 28 U.S.C. § 2241's language limiting district courts to granting habeas relief “within their respective jurisdictions.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a). The Supreme Court has explained that Congress added this limiting language to the habeas statute in 1867 to avoid “the inconvenient and potentially embarrassing possibility” that judges anywhere could issue writs on behalf of petitioners “distantly removed” from their courts. Padilla, 542 U.S. at 442 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Id. at 445 (explaining that prior decisions did not authorize district courts to “employ long-arm statutes to gain jurisdiction over custodians who are outside of their territorial jurisdiction”). This rule also serves the important purpose of preventing habeas petitioners from forum shopping. Id. at 447.

         In short, in order for a district court to have the power to issue a writ of habeas corpus, the petitioner must have named as the respondent the person who has immediate physical custody of the petitioner and the court must have jurisdiction over that custodian. See Padilla, 542 U.S. at 446-47. It is important to note that “jurisdiction” as used in 28 U.S.C. § 2241 does not connote subject matter jurisdiction. See Id. at 434 n.7. Rather, the immediate-custodian and territorial-jurisdiction rules have been likened to rules of personal jurisdiction and venue. Id. at 452 (Kennedy, J., concurring); see also Moore v. Olsen,368 F.3d 757, 759 (7th Cir. 2004) (comparing immediate-custodian rule to personal jurisdiction and territorial-jurisdiction rule to venue); Vasquez, 233 F.3d at 690 (observing that court must have personal ...


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