United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
the Court is Movant Burnis Pulley's Amended Petition for
Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [DE 9.]
Pulley seeks habeas corpus relief on the basis that the
Supreme Court's holding in Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), renders his sentence in
excess of the statutory maximum. For the reasons that follow,
I will deny his petition.
Pulley pleaded guilty without a plea agreement on February
18, 2005, to illegally possessing a firearm as a felon. [DE
22 in Case No. 2:04-CR-12.] I sentenced him on November 15,
2005 to 200 months' imprisonment based on a finding that
Pulley had at least three qualifying violent felonies or
serious drug offense convictions under the Armed Career
Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). [DE 30 in Case No.
2:04-CR-12.] Pulley's sentence was affirmed on appeal.
[DE 42 in Case No. 2:04-CR-12.]
29, 2013, Pulley filed a motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. [DE 48 in Case No. 2:04-CR-12.] He sought relief
under Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254
(2013), and argued that in light of this precedent, he no
longer had three qualifying convictions for purposes of ACCA.
I denied his motion. [DE 52 in Case No. 2:04-CR-12.] Later,
Pulley sought authorization from the Seventh Circuit to file
a second or successive § 2255 motion. There he sought
relief under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct.
2551 (2015). The Seventh Circuit denied authorization,
however, and noted that Pulley's claim actually arises
under Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243
(2016). [DE 56 in Case No. 2:04-CR-12; see also Case
No. 17-1168 (7th Cir. Filed Feb. 7, 2017).]
now seeks relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on the basis
that 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the provision under which he
previously sought relief, is inadequate and ineffective to
test the legality of his detention. Ordinarily, petitions
filed under § 2241 are heard in the district where the
petitioner is being housed. Pulley is being housed in the
Northern District of West Virginia, so one might wonder why
the matter is before this court. It is here because the case
was transferred to this district on grounds that I think are
rather dubious. [See DE 24.] But the government
chose not to fight the transfer [see DE 27 at 3-4],
so the matter is before me for decision.
Federal prisoners who seek to bring collateral attacks on
their convictions or sentences must ordinarily bring an
action under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, otherwise known as the
“federal prisoner's substitute for habeas
corpus.” Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th
Cir. 2012). Section 2255 provides that all applications for a
writ of habeas corpus, filed on behalf of a prisoner who is
authorized to apply for relief under § 2255, shall be
brought pursuant to that section, and no other motions for
habeas relief are to be entertained. 28 U.S.C. §
2255(e). This provision contains one exception, however:
“a federal prisoner may petition under [28 U.S.C.]
§ 2241 ‘if his section 2255 remedy is inadequate
or ineffective to test the legality of his
detention.'” Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d
583, 586 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Rios, 696 F.3d at
640)); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). This
mechanism has been dubbed the “savings clause.”
See Brown, 719 F.3d at 586.
what Congress meant by “inadequate or
ineffective” has been a difficult task, to say the
least. The Courts of Appeals have adopted divergent
approaches to defining this term of art, and they have
developed different tests to decipher what circumstances
qualify for relief outside of the § 2255 context. The
Seventh Circuit has the most prisoner-friendly standard,
which is why this case ended up here in the first place.
[See DE 20.]
re Davenport establishes three conditions that must
apply in order for a federal prisoner to obtain relief. 147
F.3d 605, 611-12 (7th Cir. 1998). First, the prisoner must
rely on a case of statutory interpretation, rather than
constitutional law. Rios, 696 F.3d at 640. Second,
that case must be a retroactive decision that could not have
been invoked in a prisoner's first § 2255 motion.
Id. Third, the sentence enhancement must have been
“a grave enough error to be deemed a miscarriage of
justice corrigible therefore in a habeas corpus
proceeding.” Id.; see also In re
Davenport, 417 F.3d at 611 (a prisoner must show
“a fundamental defect in his conviction or
sentence.”). With respect to the third condition, the
Seventh Circuit, departing from other circuits, allows
prisoners to “utilize the savings clause to challenge
the misapplication of the [mandatory] career offender
Guideline, ” Brown, 719 F.3d at 588, as well
as an erroneous enhancement under ACCA, Light v.
Caraway, 761 F.3d 809, 813 (7th Cir. 2014).
this standard and the state of the law, this case presents
some murky questions about when § 2241 relief is
available and what standards should apply. This is all
further complicated by the fact, as noted above, that §
2241 motions are typically brought in the district of
confinement, which in this case is actually West Virginia.
But this case has a much simpler answer. Even assuming Pulley
is entitled to have his petition addressed on the merits, it
nonetheless must be denied because Pulley's arguments are
foreclosed by Seventh Circuit precedent.
diving into the merits of the instant motion, it's
necessary to understand a bit about ACCA and why Pulley was
sentenced as he was. Section 924(e) provides that:
In the case of a person who violates section 922(g) of this
title and has three previous convictions by any court
referred to in section 922(g)(1) of this title for a violent
felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on
occasions different from one another, such person shall be
fined under this title and imprisoned not less than fifteen
years, and, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the
court shall not suspend the sentence of, or grant a
probationary sentence to, such person with respect to the
conviction under section 922(g).
18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute, in effect, imposes a
15-year mandatory minimum sentence if the defendant is
convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm - a
conviction under § 922(g) - and has three prior
convictions that constitute violent felonies or serious drug
offenses. Id. Absent the ACCA enhancement, a