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Sampson v. Flournoy

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

July 3, 2018

ERIC SAMPSON, Petitioner,



         Petitioner Eric Sampson (“Sampson”), who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution-Satellite Low in Jesup, Georgia, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 6.) Sampson filed a Response. (Doc. 8.) For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court GRANT Respondent's Motion, DISMISS Sampson's Section 2241 Petition, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Sampson in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         After a jury trial, Sampson was convicted in the Western District of North Carolina of conspiracy to sell, distribute, or dispense controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Jury Verdict, United States v. Sampson, 3:95-CR-31-02, (W.D. N.C. Dec. 1, 1995), ECF No. 190. On June 21, 1996, Sampson was sentenced to life imprisonment and ten (10) years' supervised release. J., United States v. Sampson, 3:95-CR-31-02 (W.D. N.C. June 21, 1996), ECF No. 217. Sampson's sentence was later reduced to 360 months' imprisonment. Order, United States v. Sampson, 3:95-CR-31-02 (W.D. N.C. May 21, 2009), ECF No. 318. He has a projected release date, via good conduct time, of March 15, 2021. (Doc. 6, p. 1.) Sampson filed this Section 2241 to challenge his assigned Public Safety Factor (“PSF”) of “greatest severity.” (Doc. 1.)


         In his Petition, Sampson contends the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) misapplied and misinterpreted Program Statement 5100.08 by assigning the “greatest severity” PSF to him. (Doc. 1, p. 4.) Sampson asserts he was a supervisor or manager in the drug conspiracy and not an organizer or leader. Sampson notes the Program Statement provides that an individual is held accountable in drug conspiracy cases based on the sentencing court's statement of reasons, and BOP personnel will only look to the Pre-Sentence Investigation report (“PSI”) if the statement of reasons is not available, to determine an inmate's PSF. (Id. at p. 5.) Sampson asserts his case manager ignored the “facts” involved in his case. (Id.) Thus, Sampson maintains that, due to the misapplication and misinterpretation of BOP policy, he has been subjected to the “wanton infliction of mental and emotional pain[.]” (Id. at pp. 1, 6.) Sampson requests that his PSF be changed to reflect “moderate severity” and compensatory damages. (Id. at p. 7.)

         Respondent raises several reasons why Sampson's Petition should be dismissed, which the Court addresses in turn.

         I. Whether Sampson can Proceed Pursuant to Section 2241

         Respondent contends Sampson's claim concerning the application of the “greatest severity” PSF[1] to his custody classification cannot form the basis of his Section 2241 Petition because Sampson's claim does not relate to the execution of his sentence. (Doc. 6, p. 3.) Instead, Respondent asserts Sampson's opposition to his PSF “amounts to an impermissible challenge to the conditions of his confinement, which is not cognizable under § 2241.” (Id.) Respondent states this Court, as well as other courts around the country, have dismissed Section 2241 petitions in which a petitioner challenges his PSF. (Id.) In support of this premise, Respondent cites to this Court's decisions in Wrobel v. Johns, No. 5:16-cv-36, 2016 WL 7242576 (S.D. Ga. Nov. 1, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 2016 WL 7242725 (Dec. 14, 2016), and Caba v. United States, No. CV310-082, 2010 WL 5437269 (S.D. Ga. Nov. 30, 2010), report and recommendation adopted, 2010 WL 5441919 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 27, 2010).

         In Caba, (which this Court relied upon in ruling on the Section 2241 petition in Wrobel), this Court determined a petitioner's allegations concerning his security classification- specifically the BOP's “imposition of a PSF of ‘Alien'”-was a challenge to the conditions of the petitioner's confinement and were not cognizable in a Section 2241 petition. 2010 WL 5437269, at *2. However, this Court has since determined a petitioner can challenge his security classification or place of confinement via Section 2241.[2] Baranwal v. Stone, No. CV 314-098, 2015 WL 171410, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 13, 2015); Herrera v. Johns, Civil Action No. CV513-031, 2013 WL 5574455, at *1 n.1 (S.D. Ga. Oct. 8, 2013). Other courts have reached this same conclusion. See United States v. Saldana, 273 Fed.Appx. 845 (11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam); Becerra v. Miner, 248 Fed.Appx. 368 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam); Burris v. Beasley, No. 2:18-CV-9-JM-BD; 2018 WL 1464668, at *1 (E.D. Ark. Mar. 7, 2018); Sampson-Molina v. United States, Civ. No. 09-1080-CV-W-NKL-P, 2010 WL 1486055, at *2 (W.D. Mo. Apr. 14, 2010).

         Courts in the Fifth Circuit note the distinction between a Section 2241 and a civil rights action “becomes ‘blurry' when an inmate challenges an unconstitutional condition of confinement or prison procedure that affects the timing of his release from custody.” Pham v. Wagner, No. 5:14-CV-67(DCB)(MTP), 2016 WL 5852553, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Oct. 6, 2016) (citing Carson v. Johnson, 112 F.3d 818, 820-21 (5th Cir. 1997)). As a result, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has “‘adopted a simple, bright-line rule for resolving such questions.' If a favorable determination of an inmate's claims would not automatically entitle the inmate to accelerated release, the proper vehicle is a civil rights suit.” Id. (quoting Carson, 112 F.3d at 820-21). If a petitioner is not seeking immediate or early release from custody and is instead seeking to have his PSF removed so that he will be eligible for programs that could reduce his sentence, he has not alleged that a favorable determination would automatically entitle him to a speedier release from custody. Thus, the proper vehicle for raising his claims would be a civil rights suit. Id.; see also Boyce v. Ashcroft, 251 F.3d 911, 914 (10th Cir. 2001) (“Prisoners who raise constitutional challenges to other prison decisions-including transfers to administrative segregation, exclusion from prison programs, or suspension of privileges, e.g., conditions of confinement, must proceed” with a civil rights lawsuit.).

         I find the Fifth Circuit's test to be proper for resolving this question. Based on that test, Sampson cannot pursue his claims in this Section 2241 Petition because he is not seeking immediate or early release from custody. While a favorable determination may entitle him to participate in programs that could reduce his sentence (not that he makes such an assertion), a favorable determination does not automatically entitle him to a speedier release from custody. Therefore, the Court should GRANT Respondent's Motion to Dismiss and DISMISS Sampson's Petition for lack of jurisdiction. Even if this Court had jurisdiction over Sampson's Petition, his claims would still be subject to dismissal for the reasons discussed in the next Section of this Report.

         II. Whether the BOP's PSF Assignment is Entitled to Deference

         Respondent alleges the BOP's classification decisions, such as the assignment of a PSF to an inmate, are within the BOP's discretion, as given to the BOP by Congress. (Doc. 6, p. 4.) Because Congress gave the BOP discretion how it applies custody classifications, Respondent urges the Court not to disturb the PSF applied to Sampson. (Id.) Sampson implies no deference is owed to the BOP's classification decision because its decision was ...

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