United States District Court, D. Columbia
November 9, 2005.
JAMES LYONS, Petitioner,
THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, et al., Respondents.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD ROBERTS, District Judge
Petitioner, proceeding pro se, is an inmate at the Federal
Correctional Institution in Edgefield, South Carolina. He has
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging the sentence imposed on him by the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Respondents have
filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Because
petitioner previously sought in the Superior Court habeas relief
he has not shown to be inadequate or ineffective, this Court
lacks jurisdiction to entertain his § 2241 petition, and
respondents' motion will be granted.
On March 1, 1991, in the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia, petitioner was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter,
mayhem while armed, and two counts of assault with a deadly
weapon. Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Pet."), p. 2.
Petitioner was sentenced to an imprisonment term of 23 years and
four months to life. Id. On direct appeal, the District of
Columbia Court of Appeals concluded that one of the assault
convictions should be vacated, but otherwise upheld petitioner's
convictions and sentence. Government's Motion to Dismiss
("Govt.'s Mot."), Exhibit ("Ex.") A.
On October 3, 1995, petitioner filed a motion for
post-conviction relief pursuant to D.C. Code § 23-110 in Superior
Court. Pet., p. 3. In the motion, petitioner claimed that (1) his
sentence was excessive; (2) he was deprived of the effective
assistance of counsel; (3) the jury was polled outside his
presence; (4) the trial judge modified petitioner's sentence
without petitioner being present; and (5) the penalty for his
mayhem conviction was improper. Id. The Superior Court denied
the motion on the ground that petitioner failed to raise the
issues on direct appeal. Id., pp. 3-4; Govt.'s Mot., Ex. B.
Petitioner filed a second § 23-110 motion in Superior Court on
April 21, 1997. Pet., p. 4. The Superior Court denied the motion
because petitioner had not raised his claims on direct appeal and
the successive motion was barred by D.C. Code § 23-110(e). Id.;
Govt.'s Mot., Ex. C. In 2001, petitioner filed two more motions
for post-conviction relief in the Superior Court. Id., Ex. D.
In these motions, petitioner alleged that his counsel was
ineffective and that his sentence was illegal. Id. On January
23, 2003, the Superior Court denied the motions on the grounds
that (1) petitioner failed to show cause why the issues were not
raised on direct appeal; (2) the motions were barred as
successive; and (3) the claims were without merit. Id.
Petitioner then filed in Superior Court a "Request for
Correction of Judgment and Commitment Nunc Pro Tunc to Represent
the True Jury Verdict." Id., Ex. E. On November 30, 2004, the
Superior Court denied the motion, holding that petitioner was
properly sentenced within the statutory maximum for his offenses.
Id. Thereafter, petitioner filed for habeas relief in this
Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the ground that the sentence
imposed in Superior Court is unconstitutional. Respondents move to dismiss for lack of
jurisdiction because D.C. Code § 23-110 is petitioner's exclusive
habeas remedy. Petitioner contends that this remedy is inadequate
Section 110 of Title 23 of the District of Columbia Code
provides a procedure for persons convicted and sentenced in the
Superior Court to challenge their convictions through a motion
filed in that court. Under Section 23-110(g), an
application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of
a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by
motion pursuant to this section shall not be
entertained by . . . any Federal . . . court if it
appears that the applicant has failed to make a
motion for relief under this section or that the
Superior 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.
Similar to the remedy provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for federal
prisoners, the remedy available pursuant to a motion to vacate
sentence under Section 23-110 is adequate and effective because
it is coextensive with habeas corpus. Swain v. Pressley,
430 U.S. 372
, 381-82 (1977); Perkins v. Henderson, 881 F. Supp. 55,
60 n. 6 (D.D.C. 1995). Federal courts do not have jurisdiction to
hear habeas petitions by prisoners who had a section 23-110
remedy available to them unless the petitioner can show that the
remedy was inadequate or ineffective. Blair-Bey v. Quick,
151 F.3d 1036
, 1042 (D.C. Cir. 1998). A habeas remedy is "inadequate
or ineffective" when it is "so configured as to deny a convicted
defendant any opportunity for judicial rectification of so
fundamental a defect in his conviction as having been imprisoned
for a nonexistent offense." In re Smith, 285 F.3d 6
, 8 (D.C.
Cir. 2002) (quoting In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605
, 611 (7th
Cir. 1998) (emphasis in original).
Other than the fact that his motions for post-conviction relief
have been unsuccessful, petitioner does not identify the basis of
his claim that section 23-110 provides an inadequate or
ineffective remedy. The fact that a petitioner's motion has been
denied does not make the remedy either inadequate or ineffective. Garris v. Lindsay,
794 F.2d 722, 727 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 993 (1986).
Therefore, the fact that petitioner was barred from filing a
successive petition, from re-litigating issues raised on direct
appeal, or procedurally barred from pursuing relief on issues not
raised on direct appeal, does not render section 23-110 an
inadequate or ineffective remedy. See Hernandez-Pauturi v.
Bureau of Prisons, 221 F.3d 196, 2002 WL 628223 (D.C. Cir.)
(per curiam); Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 756 (6th
Cir. 1999); Garris, 794 F.2d at 726.
Because the petitioner has an adequate habeas remedy in the
District of Columbia courts, this Court lacks jurisdiction over
the petition for habeas corpus relief filed here. Respondents'
motion to dismiss will be granted.
A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
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