*fn1,The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry, Associate Judge,Larry S. Knight filed a brief pro se.,LARRY S. KNIGHT, APPELLANT v. UNITED STATES, APPELLEE" />

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Knight v. United States

January 12, 2006 *fn1


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-5566-00) (Hon. Susan R. Winfield, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry, Associate Judge

Submitted April 19, 2005

Before TERRY and GLICKMAN, Associate Judges, and WAGNER, Senior Judge.*fn2

Appellant is a prisoner in the Federal Correctional Institution in Morgantown, West Virginia. He brings this appeal from the denial of his motion to vacate sentence and the dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in which he argued that the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") should have placed him in a halfway house to serve the last portion of his sentence. We affirm.


Appellant was charged in two counts of a three-count indictment with distributing heroin in a drug-free zone.*fn3 He entered a plea of guilty to the lesser included offense of distributing heroin as charged in a superseding indictment, and on September 24, 2002, he was sentenced to four years of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release. The first count of the original indictment was dismissed. At the time of his sentencing, appellant was serving a sentence previously imposed in another case, having been returned to custody after a parole violation. He began serving his current sentence in December 2002 and will complete his prison term in the latter part of 2006.

In September 2003 appellant filed pro se in the Superior Court a "Motion to Vacate Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255."*fn4 Incorporated in that motion was a section headed "Motion for Habeas Corpus Relief," in which he argued that his sentence was unlawful because of a change in BOP policy under 18 U.S.C. § 3624 (c) with regard to the placement of prisoners in halfway houses near the end of their prison terms.*fn5 This change, appellant contended, made it impossible to "effectuate [the court's] original intentions in sentencing [him]." The government filed an opposition to the motion, and appellant filed a reply.

The sentencing judge denied appellant's motion to vacate his sentence and dismissed, without prejudice, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The judge stated in her order that "[w]hen this court imposed sentence in this case, it did not rely at all on the BOP halfway house policy," nor did it "sentence[ ] him with a view toward subsequent parole issues." Moreover, "even had this court relied upon the BOP halfway house policy in effect at the time the sentence was imposed, the law dictates that a subsequent change in the policy does not undermine the legality of the sentence." The judge therefore concluded that "the sentence was authorized by law, is not subject to collateral attack, and does not represent a denial or infringement of defendant's constitutional rights." She also held that the court lacked both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over appellant's request for a writ of habeas corpus because he was incarcerated in a federal facility, and thus his habeas corpus petition "should be filed in a federal district court," citing Peoples v. Roach, 669 A.2d 700 (D.C. 1995). Appellant noted the instant appeal.


Appellant contends in his brief that he is "entitled to an order compelling the BOP to disregard its invalid new policy, and reconsider, utilizing pre-December 20, 2002 criteria, his eligibility for placement in a halfway house . . . ." For at least two reasons, this argument lacks merit.

A. Habeas Corpus

Insofar as appellant seeks habeas corpus relief, we agree with the trial court that it lacked jurisdiction even to consider his habeas corpus petition. Under D.C. Code § 16-901 (2001), "the Superior Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain a habeas corpus petition directed against federal respondents." Taylor v. Washington, 808 A.2d 770, 772 (D.C. 2002). Moreover, because "the only proper respondent in a habeas corpus action is 'the officer or other person in whose custody or keeping' the petitioner is detained," id. at 773 (quoting D.C. Code § 16-901), the Superior Court "may not grant [habeas corpus] relief unless it has personal jurisdiction over the custodian of the prisoner." Alston v. United States, 590 A.2d 511, 515 (D.C. 1991).

At the time he filed his habeas corpus petition, appellant was imprisoned in a federal facility in West Virginia. Consequently, the Superior Court had no jurisdiction to entertain his habeas claim, for "District of Columbia Courts may grant habeas corpus relief only for prisoners incarcerated within the District or in District of Columbia correctional facilities." Id. at 514-515. Further, the proper respondent is the warden of the prison in which appellant is being held. See Taylor, 808 A.2d at 773, 775; accord, e.g., Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 124 S.Ct. 2711, 2717 (2005); Stokes v. United States Parole Commission, 362 U.S. App. D.C. 410, ...

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