United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
SHANNON D. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
E. Payne Senior United States District Judge
a bench trial, Shannon D. Williams was convicted of various
drug offenses, three counts of murder while engaged in a drug
conspiracy, and one count of use of a firearm during and in
relation to a drug conspiracy, resulting in death, and was
sentenced to life in prison. See United States v.
Williams, 85 F.App'x 341, 345 (4th Cir. 2004) . The
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
affirmed his convictions and sentence. Id. By
Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on January 20, 2006, the
Court denied Williams's 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion.
United States v. Williams, Nos. 3:02CR85-JRS,
3:05CV100-JRS, 2006 WL 167659, at *6 (E.D. Va. Jan. 20,
2006). Since that time, Williams has inundated the Court with
various challenges to his conviction and sentence. See,
e.g., United States v. Williams, No. 3:02-CR-85-1, 2015
WL 11109787, at *l-3 (E.D. Va. June 10, 2015) (dismissing a
"Motion for Declaratory Judgment" and a Rule 60(b)
Motion as successive, unauthorized § 2255 motions);
Williams v. Galindo, No. 3:11CV649, 2013 WL 4759248,
at *3 (E.D. Va. Sept. 4, 2013) (dismissing "Motion for
Writ of Mandamus" as legally frivolous); see also
id. at *l (outlining prior frivolous filings seeking his
release from incarceration).
26, 2016, the Court received a document titled,
"Complaint for Declaratory Judgment Fed.R.Civ.P.
57" ("Complaint, " ECF No. 1.) Williams
indicates that "this action is not a 28 U.S.C. §
2255, nor a successive § 2255" and that he
"does not seek to contest his conviction or
sentence." (Id. at 1.) However, from the
contents of the Complaint, the Court discerns that Williams
challenges the interpretation of one of his statutes of
conviction, 21 U.S.C. § 848(e), the statute that
criminalizes murder while engaged in a drug conspiracy
involving more than 50 grams of cocaine base. (Id.
at 3-8.) Williams asks the Court to "declare that the
third prong of 21 U.S.C. 848(e)(1)(A) is ambiguous"
because he "continues to suffer from the effects of an
ambiguous statute, which also raised other constitutional
concerns." (Id. at 9.)
Complaint once again challenges the validity of his
conviction. As explained below, the Complaint must be treated
as a successive, unauthorized 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion.
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
restricted the jurisdiction of the district courts to hear
second or successive applications for federal habeas corpus
relief by prisoners attacking the validity of their
convictions and sentences by establishing a "gatekeeping
mechanism." Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 657
(1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). Specifically,
" [b]efore a second or successive application permitted
by this section is filed in the district court, the applicant
shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order
authorizing the district court to consider the
application." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A).
Fourth Circuit has instructed that inmates may not avoid the
bar on successive collateral attacks on their convictions and
sentences by inventive labeling. See United States v.
Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 206 (4th Cir. 2003). A motion
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 "'provides the
primary means of collateral attack on a federal
sentence.'" Pack v. Yusuff, 218 F.3d 448,
451 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Cox v. Warden, Fed. Pet.
Ctr., 911 F.2d 1111, 1113 (5th Cir. 1990)). "Call
it a motion for a new trial, arrest of judgment, mandamus,
prohibition, coram nobis, coram vobis, audita querela,
certiorari, capias, habeas corpus, ejectment, quare impedit
... or an application for a Get-Out-of-Jail Card; the name
makes no difference. It is substance that controls."
Melton v. United States, 359 F.3d 855, 857 (7th Cir.
2004) (citation omitted). "Any motion filed in the
district court that imposed the sentence, and substantively
within the scope of § 2255[(a)], is a motion under
§ 2255, no matter what title the prisoner plasters on
the cover." Id. (citing Ramunno v. United
States, 264 F.3d 723 (7th Cir. 2001)).
outlined above, Williams's Complaint once again
challenges one of the statutes of which he was convicted and
falls squarely within the ambit of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
See Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 530-32 (2005)
(construing a motion as a successive "habeas corpus
application" if it "seeks vindication" of
"a claim" for relief from the criminal judgment,
regardless of the title of the motion), - United States
v. Williams, 621 F.App'x 212, 212 (4th Cir. 2015)
(affirming this Court's dismissal of Williams's prior
"Motion for Declaratory Judgment" as a successive
§ 2255 motion) . The Court has not received
authorization from the Fourth Circuit to hear a successive
§ 2255 motion from Williams. Indeed, on August 2, 2016,
the Fourth Circuit denied Williams's most recent request
to file a successive § 2255 motion. United States v.
Williams, No. 3:02CR85-JRS (E.D. Va. Aug. 2, 2016), ECF
No. 268. Accordingly, the Complaint is construed as a
successive § 2255 motion (ECF No. 1) and will be
dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
appeal may not be taken from the final order in a § 2255
proceeding unless a judge issues a certificate of
appealability ("COA"). 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(1)(B). A COA will not issue unless a prisoner makes
"a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). This requirement is
satisfied only when "reasonable jurists could debate
whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should
have been resolved in a different manner or that the issues
presented were 'adequate to deserve encouragement to
proceed further.'" Slack v. McDaniel, 529
U.S. 473, 484 (2000) (quoting Barefoot v. Estelle,
463 U.S. 880, 893 & n.4 (1983)). Williams fails to
satisfy this standard. Accordingly, a certificate of
appealability will be denied.
Clerk is directed to send a copy of the Memorandum ...