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Tolan v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 21, 2015

James Ray Tolan, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Petitioner is a prisoner incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in White Deer, Pennsylvania. He has submitted a "Petition for Issuance of Writ, Pursuant to D.C. Code Rule 16-1901, " in which he challenges a conviction entered by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. See generally Pet. For the following reasons, the Court will grant the application to proceed in forma pauperis and will dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

Unlike prisoners convicted in state courts or in a United States district court, "District of Columbia prisoners] ha[ve] no recourse to a federal judicial forum unless [it is shown that] the local remedy is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." Garris v. Lindsay, 794 F.2d 722, 726 (D.C. Cir. 1986) (internal footnote and quotation marks omitted); see Byrd v. Henderson, 119 F.3d 34, 36-37 (D.C. Cir. 1997) ("In order to collaterally attack his sentence in an Article III court a District of Columbia prisoner faces a hurdle that a federal prisoner does not ."). Petitioner's recourse lies in the Superior Court via proceedings under D.C. Code § 23-110.[1] See Blair-Bey v. Quick, 151 F.3d 1036, 1042-43 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (describing § 23-110 as "a remedy analogous to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for prisoners sentenced in D.C. Superior Court who wished to challenge their conviction or sentence"); Byrd, 119 F.3d at 36-37 ("Since passage of the Court Reform Act [in 1970], ... a District of Columbia prisoner seeking to collaterally attack his sentence must do so by motion in the sentencing court - the Superior Court - pursuant to D.C. Code §23-110."). Section 23-110 states:

[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 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.

D.C. Code § 23-110(g). This local statute "divests federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas petitions by prisoners who could have raised viable claims pursuant to § 23-110(a)." Williams v. Martinez, 586 F.3d 995, 998 (D.C. Cir. 2009). The fact that petitioner has had no success in the local courts, see Pet. U 2, does not render his remedy inadequate or ineffective. See Wright v. Stansberry, 677 F.Supp.2d 286, 289 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing cases). Hence, this case will be dismissed. A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.


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