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Lee v. Sanders

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 3, 2019

Christopher James Lee Petitioner - Appellant
v.
Linda Sanders, Warden Respondent - Appellee

          Submitted: September 26, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          Erickson, Circuit Judge

         On March 16, 2016, Christopher Lee, who was on supervised release for a 2006 conviction for bank fraud, was charged with new counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The judge assigned to the revocation proceedings ("revocation judge") indicated the revocation sentence should run concurrent to any sentence imposed on the new charges. The judge assigned to the case pertaining to the new charges ("sentencing judge") ordered the sentences to run consecutive.

         Lee filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 habeas petition seeking a declaration from the revocation judge that the sentences must run concurrently. Because there was no federal subject-matter jurisdiction to decide Lee's § 2241 petition, we vacate the order on appeal and dismiss.

         I. Background

         Christopher Lee pled guilty to several counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in 2006. Lee was sentenced to 118 months' imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. During his period of supervised release, in 2016, Lee admitted to new counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

         Lee's term of supervised release was revoked, and he was sentenced to 35 months' imprisonment. The revocation judge stated that this sentence "shall run concurrently to the sentence imposed [for the new counts]." But after Lee pled guilty to the new charges, the sentencing judge imposed a term of 57 months' imprisonment to "run consecutive to the sentence imposed [in the revocation proceeding]." Confronted with these facially inconsistent orders the Bureau of Prisons ("BoP") calculated the sentences consecutively, requiring Lee to serve 92 months in custody rather than 57 months.

         Lee initially filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the revocation case, seeking as relief that the sentence be vacated and then reimposed so that it would be the later-imposed sentence and therefore, presumably, require the BoP to execute the sentences concurrently. The judge dismissed the petition without prejudice because it was not filed on the appropriate form. Rather than refile on the approved form, Lee took his grievance to the BoP, where he argued that the BoP had erred when it calculated his time to run consecutively. Lee pursued this claim though the entire administrative process only to be told at every stage that the 92 months had been properly calculated.

         Having failed in his endeavor to persuade the BoP, Lee filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, where he was incarcerated, rather than in the Eastern District of Missouri where both the sentences had been imposed. The Western District converted his § 2241 petition into one under § 2255 and then transferred the action to the Eastern District, where it was assigned to the revocation judge.

         The first order by the revocation judge denied Lee's request to send the case back to the Western District, but granted his request that his petition be considered pursuant to § 2241. In the second order, the revocation judge denied the petition, reasoning that the BoP's interpretation of the sentences was reasonable. Lee appeals.

         II. Discussion

         The issue of whether one federal sentence may be ordered to be consecutive or concurrent to an anticipated federal sentence was raised in a recent Eighth Circuit case, but was unnecessary to its disposition and so left unresolved. United States v. Watson, 883 F.3d 1033, 1037 (8th Cir. ...


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