Jones v. Hendrix (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2023)

The Federal Docket

August 15, 2023

In 2000, Jones was sentenced to 327 months’ imprisonment on 2 counts of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and a third count of making false statements to acquire a firearm. After losing his appeal, Jones filed a § 2255 motion in the sentencing court, which resulted in the vacatur of one of his two § 922(g) judgments. Following the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Rehaif v. United States, Jones sought further post-conviction relief on the ground that he is now deemed to be statutorily innocent of the remaining § 922(g) conviction.

Given that § 2255(h) prevents someone from filing a “second or successive” § 2255 motion except where there is “newly discovered evidence” or “a new rule of constitutional law” (not applicable here), Jones filed a petition pursuant to § 2241 in the district where he is being detained. He argued that the court had jurisdiction to consider his petition because the “saving clause” found in § 2255(e) authorizes someone to seek § 2241 habeas relief whenever the remedy afforded by § 2255 “is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.”

The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Jones’s § 2241 motion on the ground that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. It held that § 2255(h) is the exclusive vehicle for seeking postconviction relief for the second time, finding that the “saving clause” found in § 2255(e) can never be used as an “end-run” around § 2255(h)’s bar against second or subsequent petitions except in two delineated contexts.

In so doing, it overruled a large majority of circuits that had authorized the use of § 2255(e)’s saving clause, at least where the petitioner could make out a claim of innocence “that circuit precedent had foreclosed at the time of the prisoner’s trial, appeal, and first § 2255 motion.”

Certiorari to the Eighth Circuit                                             
Opinion by Thomas, joined by Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett
Dissenting opinion filed by Sotomayor, joined by Kagan
Dissenting opinion filed by Jackson

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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