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Tate v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

June 25, 2019

RAYMOND TATE, Petitioner,


          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge

         Raymond Tate, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, asking for release from detention because limited law library access in prison interfered with his ability to collaterally attack his federal conviction and sentence. After review of the record, the court will summarily dismiss the petition.


         In November 2008, Tate was indicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Chattanooga for distribution of 50 grams or more of cocaine base ("crack"). Tate v. United States, No. 1:08-CR-118-HSM-WBC, 2015 WL 5089139, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. Aug. 27, 2015). After Tate developed conflicts with three, successive court-appointed attorneys, he waived his right to counsel and elected to represent himself with standby counsel. Id. at *2. A superseding indictment returned in June 2009 recharged Tate with the distribution offense and added three additional charges arising from allegations that Tate had attempted to kill a confidential informant by shooting her in the face to prevent her from communicating with law enforcement or testifying against him. Id. In November 2009, Tate was convicted by a jury on all charges. Id. at *6. He is serving a sentence of life plus ten years in prison. Id. at *7. His direct appeal was unsuccessful. Id. at *8.

         In February 2013, Tate filed his first motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which the trial court dismissed as without merit. Id. at *20. Tate appealed, seeking a certificate of appealability on the merits of his constitutional claims in the § 2255. Pet. 2, ECF No. 1. On March 28, 2016, he filed a second § 2255 motion, raising the same constitutional issues as presented in his first § 2255 motion. In addition, Tate "complained about prison officials not furnishing adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law in violation of Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996)." Id. On April 4, 2016, the district court transferred Tate's second § 2255 motion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit as a second or successive motion under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b) and 2255(h). On April 8, 2016, the Sixth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability regarding the district court's denial of his initial § 2255 motion, No. 15-6066, and, later denied Tate certification to file the second § 2255 motion.

         On March 30, 2016, while Tate's appeals regarding his § 2255 motions were pending in the Sixth Circuit, prison officials at a federal prison in Louisiana placed him in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), where he remained until June 15, 2016. While in the SHU, Tate could access a law library computer, at most, only once per week for about an hour and had no access to other legal materials or persons with legal training. On April 18, 2016, under certain Sixth Circuit rules, Tate challenged the April 8, 2016 order denying him a certificate of appealability in No. 15-6066. On June 8, 2016, the Court denied that motion, finding that the April 8, 2016, order was not reviewable under the cited rules.

         On June 15, 2016, officials transferred Tate, and after a period in transit with no access to legal materials, he arrived at the United States Penitentiary in Lee County, Virginia ("USP Lee"), on June 29, 2016. At USP Lee, Tate had access to law library computers and typewriters, but no help from persons trained in the law.

         On July 14, 2016, Tate filed a motion to reinstate his § 2255 appeal, No. 15-6066, in the Sixth Circuit, complaining about his lack of access to legal materials in the federal prisons in Louisiana and Virginia. The Court informed him that No. 15-6066 was closed by final order and would not be reinstated. Tate missed the deadline to file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court regarding No. 15-6066.

         In July 2017, Tate filed another § 2255 motion, assigned No. 17-5833 in the Sixth Circuit, raising the lack of access claims included in the present case. In January 2018, the Sixth Circuit entered an order in No. 17-5833, denying Tate leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion.

The Court stated, Tate's First Amendment claim is not the proper subject of a § 2255 motion. Although a § 2255 motion is a post-conviction remedy, it cannot be used to pursue every post-conviction claim and is instead limited to claims concerning the validity of a conviction or sentence. Tate's First Amendment claim concerns his access to legal materials in relation to his § 2255 motion and, therefore, has no bearing on the validity of his conviction or sentence.

Pet. at 4, ECF No. 1.

         Tate filed his § 2241 petition in this court in April 2019, arguing that inadequate access to legal materials in prison prevented him from perfecting his petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court regarding his § 2255 appeal in July 2016, in violation of his First and Fifth Amendment rights. As relief, Tate asserts that under § 2255(e) and § 2241, this court should order his release from confinement.


         A prisoner must, generally, use a motion under § 2255 to collaterally attack the legality of his detention under a federal conviction and sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); Davis v. United States. 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). A district court has no jurisdiction to entertain a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under § 2241 challenging the validity of an inmate's detention under a federal court judgment unless a § 2255 motion is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [that inmate's] detention." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) ("the savings ...

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