United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pro se petitioner, James Leach, filed a petition
for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
ECF No. 1. Petitioner is a federal inmate incarcerated at FCI
Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. In his petition,
petitioner challenges the validity of his sentence imposed by
the United States District Court in the Eastern District of
Missouri. ECF No. 1. The petitioner asserts that his prior
convictions under Missouri law can no longer serve to subject
him to a career offender offense. Id. at 5. For
relief, petitioner requests that his sentence and/or
conviction be vacated. Id. at 8.
action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge James
E. Seibert for initial review and report and recommendation
pursuant to Local Rule of Prisoner Litigation Procedure 2.
The action was then reassigned to United States Magistrate
Judge James P. Mazzone. The magistrate judge filed a report
and recommendation recommending that petition be denied and
dismissed without prejudice. ECF No. 8. The magistrate judge
informed the petitioner that if he objected to any portion of
the report and recommendation, he was required to file
specific written objections within 14 days after being served
with copies of the report and recommendation. The petitioner
then filed untimely objections. ECF No. 11.
reasons that follow, this Court finds that the report and
recommendation of the magistrate judge should be adopted in
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must conduct a
de novo review of any portion of the magistrate
judge's recommendation to which an objection is timely
made. As to those findings to which timely objections were
not filed, all findings and recommendations will be upheld
unless they are “clearly erroneous or contrary to
law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
the petitioner filed untimely objections to the report and
recommendation, all findings and recommendations of the
magistrate judge will be upheld unless they are
“clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Upon
review of the report and recommendation, this Court finds no
clear error in the determinations of the magistrate judge and
thus upholds his recommendation to deny the petition and
dismiss the petition without prejudice.
stated above, this Court finds that although the petitioner
did file objections to the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation, the objections were not timely filed. In
reviewing the record, this Court finds that the service of
the magistrate judge's report and recommendation was
accepted on May 31, 2019. ECF No. 10. Petitioner's
objections were filed on June 19, 2019. ECF No. 11. Thus, the
petitioner's objections are untimely.
this Court additionally notes that even if the petitioner had
timely filed his proposed objections to the report and
recommendation, it would not impact this Court's
decision. In considering petitioner's untimely objections
under a de novo review, this Court finds that
because petitioner is challenging his sentence in a §
2241, he must meet all four prongs of the test established in
United States v. Wheeler, 886 F.3d 415 (4th Cir.
2018), for this Court to have jurisdiction to hear his
challenge on the merits. In his recommendation, the
magistrate judge correctly found that the petitioner fails to
meet the second prong of the Wheeler test. ECF No. 8
at 8. The magistrate judge also noted that petitioner's
reliance on Mathis is misplaced, as Mathis
does not represent a substantive change in the law and has
not been held to apply retroactively in this Circuit.
Id. at 9. Additionally, the magistrate judge noted
in his report and recommendation that petitioner's
reliance on Johnson is misguided. Id.
Moreover, the magistrate judge correctly stated that even if
petitioner could meet the second prong of the
Wheeler test, he cannot meet the fourth prong, which
requires a showing that due to a retroactive change in the
law, his sentence now presents an error sufficiently grave to
be deemed a fundamental defect. Lester v. Flournoy,
909 F.3d 708, 715 (4th Cir. 2018).
petitioner's untimely objections to the magistrate
judge's report and recommendation (ECF No. 11), the
petitioner objects to the magistrate judge's application
and analysis of Mathis and further “objects on
the basis that the R&R fails to Liberally
Construe Petitioner's arguments as required by
law.” ECF No. 11 at 2 (emphasis in original). Further,
petitioner generally objects to the magistrate judge's
analysis of Wheeler, and ultimately reiterates his
previous arguments in stating that petitioner meets all four
prongs of the Wheeler test.
address these objections, this Court finds that the
magistrate judge expressly noted that as a pro se litigant,
the petitioner's pleadings are accorded liberal
construction and held to “to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” under
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). ECF No.
8 at 5. However, with this in mind, the magistrate judge
determined that even under this less stringent standard, the
petition in this case is subject to summary dismissal.
Wheeler, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit concluded that § 2255(e) provides
“an avenue for prisoners to test the legality of their
sentences pursuant to § 2241, and Jones is
applicable to fundamental sentencing errors, as well as
undermined convictions.” Id. at 428. When
contesting a sentence through a petition filed under §
2241, a petitioner still must meet the savings clause of
§ 2255. In the Fourth Circuit, § 2255 is deemed to