Thursday, March 17, 2011

Transfer, not dismissal, appropriate response to habeas petition filed in wrong venue

Shaw v. United States, No. 09-8186 (4th Cir. Mar. 17, 2011):

Stanleigh Shaw was convicted in the Northern District of Alabama and sentenced to thirty-seven months in prison.  Shaw, incarcerated in a federal penitentiary in North Carolina, filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition in North Carolina.

The Eastern District of North Carolina determined that the petition should be raised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.  The Court, however, declined to construe the petition as such because jurisdiction to entertain such a motion lies in the Northern District of Alabama.  Instead, the Court dismissed the matter without prejudice as an improperly brought § 2241 petition.

Instead of dismissing the petition, the Court should have transferred it pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631 to the Northern District of Alabama.  Such a transfer would serve the interest of justice because, if Shaw were now to file a § 2255 motion in that district, consideration of his claims likely would be barred by the applicable one-year limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).

In a footnote, the Fourth Circuit mentioned that the District Court performed merely an initial screening of Shaw’s petition.  The District Court made no substantive ruling on the merits of the petition and did not recharacterize it "as the litigant's first § 2255 motion."  See Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. at 377 (emphasis added).  Because there was no such recharacterization, the District Court was not required to give Shaw the notice that Castro otherwise would require.

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