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United States v. Perez

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

November 5, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,



         Defendant/Movant Steven Reynaldo Perez filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 challenging the Court's jurisdiction over his criminal conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. D.E. 93[1]; Case No. 2:18-CV-320, D.E. 1.[2] Prior to filing his § 2255 motion, he also filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 raising the same claim, which he later amended. Case No. 2:18-CV-185, D.E. 1, 13. By written Order entered May 13, 2019, the Honorable Hilda G. Tagle construed Movant's § 2241 motion as a motion seeking habeas relief under § 2255 and reassigned the case to the undersigned judge. Id., D.E. 21. Because both motions raise a single, identical claim, the Court will consider them as one § 2255 motion.

         Now pending is the United States of America's (the “Government”) Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 101), wherein the Government moves the Court to dismiss the motions as untimely, substantively meritless, and procedurally barred. Movant has responded. D.E. 102.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In December 2003, Movant pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute 124.5 grams of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). He was sentenced to 27 months' imprisonment, to be followed by 3 years' supervised release. Judgment was entered February 18, 2004. He did not appeal.

         Movant was released from federal custody in November 2005. However, in July 2008, he was sentenced to an additional 24 months' imprisonment for violating the terms of his supervised release after he was convicted of murder in Texas state court. Movant is currently serving a 60-year sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), with a projected release date of January 12, 2067. Movant's 24-month supervised release revocation sentence was ordered “to be served consecutively to the state offense the defendant is presently serving.” D.E. 36, p. 3.

         On June 14, 2018, Movant filed his current motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 challenging his 2003 conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.[3]


         Movant's motion raises a single ground for relief: There was no quorum in the United States House of Representatives on May 12, 1947, when it passed Public Law 80-772, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3231. That statute states, “The district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 3231. Movant argues that because there was no quorum in the House of Representatives, § 3231 is invalid. Thus, the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Movant's conviction for cocaine trafficking, and he is actually innocent of this offense.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         There are four cognizable grounds upon which a federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence: (1) constitutional issues, (2) challenges to the district court's jurisdiction to impose the sentence, (3) challenges to the length of a sentence in excess of the statutory maximum, and (4) claims that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; United States v. Placente, 81 F.3d 555, 558 (5th Cir. 1996). “Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries that could not have been raised on direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). In addition, “a collateral challenge may not do service for an appeal.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982).

         B. Statute of Limitations

         A motion made under § 2255 is subject to a one-year statute of limitations, which, in most cases, begins to run when the judgment becomes final. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).[4] The Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court have held that a judgment becomes final when the applicable period for seeking review of a final conviction has expired. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 531-32 (2003); United States v. Gamble, 208 F.3d 536, 536-37 (5th Cir. 2000) (per curiam). Equitable tolling may allow for a late-filed motion, but such exceptions to limitations are rare. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010); United States v. Riggs, 314 F.3d 796, 799 (5th Cir. 2002). The party seeking equitable tolling bears the burden of demonstrating that tolling is appropriate. United States v. Petty, 530 F.3d 361, ...

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