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Chandler v. State

United States District Court, D. Vermont

March 21, 2017

CHARLES CHANDLER, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF VERMONT and THOMAS J. DONOVAN, JR., [1]Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER (Docs. 1, 5, 9)

          Geoffrey W. Crawford, Judge United States District Court

         Petitioner 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).

         A 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).

         In his 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.)

         Background

         The 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

         Mr. 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. § 3001.

         The Vermont Supreme Court later described the offense conduct as follows:

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, at *1.

         II. Post-Conviction Proceedings

         The 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 ...

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