United States District Court, D. Vermont
OPINION AND ORDER (Docs. 1, 5, 9)
Geoffrey W. Crawford, Judge United States District Court
Charles Chandler has filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. §
2254, seeking to vacate his 2009 conviction for impeding a
public officer, a felony, in violation of 13 V.S.A. §
3001. (Doc. 1.) The Magistrate Judge filed a Report and
Recommendation (R&R) on December 8, 2016 (Doc. 9),
recommending that the court grant the Motion to Dismiss for
Lack of Jurisdiction (Doc. 5) filed by Respondents. Mr.
Chandler has filed an objection to the R&R (Doc. 10) that
incorporates his July 13, 2016 Memorandum in Support of his
§ 2254 petition (Doc. 1-1).
district judge must make a de novo determination of
those portions of a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The district judge may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). A district judge is not
required to review the factual or legal conclusions of the
magistrate judge as to those portions of a report and
recommendation to which no objections are addressed.
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
nineteen page R&R, the Magistrate Judge carefully
analyzed whether Mr. Chandler satisfies § 2254's
"in custody" requirement. (See Doc. 9.)
Mr. Chandler asserted that he satisfied the
"custody" requirement for three reasons: (1) the
current petition relates back to the date of the filing of
his initial Vermont petition for post-conviction relief; (2)
his non-confinement restraints are sufficient to render him
"in custody"; and (3) he meets an exception to the
"in custody" requirement under Lackawanna
County District Attorney v. Coss, 532 U.S. 394 (2001).
The Magistrate Judge concluded that each of those arguments
lacks merit. (Doc. 9 at 7.) Mr. Chandler objects to the
R&R, asserting primarily that he qualifies for an
exception established by the Lackawanna decision.
(See Doc. 10 at 3; Doc. 1-1 at 29-31.)
court relies upon the facts as set forth in the R&R, none
of which are challenged in Mr. Chandler's objection.
I. Conviction and Sentence
Chandler was arrested on March 30, 2006, and charged in
Vermont Superior Court, Windham Criminal Division, with
impeding a public officer, in violation of 13 V.S.A. §
Vermont Supreme Court later described the offense conduct as
On March 30, 2006, a member of the Newbrook Fire Department,
a volunteer member-owned fire department that covers the Town
of Newfane, became aware of a reported brush fire on
defendant's property. After consulting the fire warden,
three members of the Department went to defendant's
property to investigate. Upon their arrival, they decided to
extinguish the fire because no permit had been given for a
brush fire, and they believed the fire posed a potential
hazard. A confrontation ensued between the firefighters and
defendant and his brother, culminating in defendant grabbing
one of the firefighters by the arm and walking him off his
property. The firefighters waited across the street for the
fire chief. When he arrived, the chief decided that the fire
needed to be extinguished. He called the district fire warden
to determine whether they should pursue the matter or leave.
The fire warden arrived at the scene and tried to explain to
defendant that the fire had to be extinguished. Defendant
resisted, however, claiming that it was a campfire, not a
brush fire. Eventually, a deputy sheriff arrived and cited
defendant for impeding an officer.
State v. Chandler, No. 2010-135, 2011 WL 4974829, at
* 1 (Vt. Jan. 27, 2011) (unpublished mem.). After a three-day
jury trial in November 2009, Mr. Chandler was convicted of
the charged offense. See In re Chandler, 2013 VT 10,
¶ 2, 193 Vt. 246, 67 A.3d 261. On March 30, 2010, the
trial court sentenced Mr. Chandler to serve 29 to 30 days in
jail. Id. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed on
direct appeal. State v. Chandler, 2011 WL 4974829,
R&R recounts the numerous post-conviction proceedings
that followed the jury's verdict, including Mr.
Chandler's petition for post-conviction relief (PCR)
under 13 V.S.A. § 7131. (Doc. 9 at 3-5.) The Vermont
Supreme Court summarized those post-conviction proceedings in
a May 27, 2016 decision:
In March 2011, plaintiff filed a PCR petition seeking relief
from his 2009 conviction on ineffective-assistance-of-counsel
grounds. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that his trial
counsel failed to effectively represent him in the criminal
case because of a fee dispute and made prejudicial omissions
or errors, including failing to object to the State's
information, the jury instructions, and the prosecution's
closing statement and declined to present exculpatory
evidence. As a result, plaintiff alleged that his conviction
was unlawfully obtained. The trial court initially dismissed
plaintiffs petition on the ground that it was moot because he
was no longer in custody under sentence. We ...