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Wiggins v. Attorney General of State

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 21, 2016



          EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

         Petitioner Leroy Wiggins, also known as Sterling Chavis ("Petitioner"), brings this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("the Petition") challenging a decision of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Control ("the Pennsylvania Board") extending the end date for his parole following his incarceration on unrelated charges in New Jersey. Petitioner argues that the Pennsylvania Board calculated his sentence incorrectly, and that the extension constituted "piecemeal incarceration" in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin recommended that the Court dismiss the Petition on the basis that it constituted a second or successive habeas petition filed without permission of the Third Circuit. Petitioner objected.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will overrule Petitioner's objections, dismiss the Petition - although on different grounds than it was dismissed by Judge Perkin - and deny Petitioner habeas relief.


         On November 22, 1982, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County sentenced Petitioner to a term of three and one-half to twenty years' incarceration for convictions of robbery, impersonating a public servant, carrying a firearm on a public street, criminal conspiracy, simple assault, aggravated assault, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, and recklessly endangering another person. Report & Recommendation ("R&R") at 1-2, ECF No. 10. Petitioner's original maximum parole violation date for this sentence was June 18, 2001. Chavis v. Pa. Bd. of Probation & Parole, No. 544 CD. 2012, 2012 WL 8678119, at *1 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Oct. 9, 2012).

         On February 9, 1995, following Petitioner's parole from his Pennsylvania sentence and subsequent periods of incarceration in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("the Pennsylvania DOC") transferred Petitioner to New Jersey to serve a sentence for a new, unrelated criminal conviction. Id. at *1. New Jersey returned Petitioner to the Pennsylvania DOC's custody on June 22, 2009, on the basis of a detainer that the Pennsylvania Board issued against him. Id. On June 15, 2011, the Pennsylvania Board recalculated Petitioner's parole maximum date to July 25, 2023, determining that Petitioner would not receive credit for the time he spent incarcerated in New Jersey. Id.

         On July 13, 2011, Petitioner filed a petition for administrative review of the Pennsylvania Board's recalculation decision, claiming that he should have received credit for his incarceration in New Jersey from February 9, 1995, through June 22, 2009. ECF No. 1 at 39. The Board denied this petition. Id. at 40. Petitioner subsequently petitioned for review of this denial in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, which affirmed the Pennsylvania Board's order on October 9, 2012. Chavis, 2012 WL 8678119, at *2. Petitioner then filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which denied the petition in a per curiam order on May 20, 2013. Chavis v. Pa. Bd. of Probation & Parole, 68 A.3d 910 (Pa. 2013).

         This is Petitioner's seventh federal habeas petition. Petitioner filed six previous federal habeas petitions under his alias, Sterling Chavis, in 1983, 1986, 1993, 1996, 2002, and 2005, all of which were dismissed. See Chavis v. Ryan, No. 83- 5066 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 1984) (dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies); Chavis v. Neubert, No. 86-2855 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 20, 1986) (denied on the merits); Chavis v. Vaughn, No. 93-3571 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 7, 1993) (summarily dismissed under Rule 9(b) because alleged claims were previously determined on the merits); Chavis v. Pinchak, No. 96-0008 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 20, 1996) (dismissed as successive and an abuse of the writ); Chavis v. Pa. Bd. of Probation & Parole, No. 02-4694 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 5, 2002) (dismissed without prejudice for failure to reply to Court order directing filing of petition on current habeas form); Chavis v. Pa. Bd. of Probation & Parole, No. 05-4502 (E.D. Pa. July 31, 2006) (dismissed with prejudice as untimely filed).

         Petitioner filed the instant Petition on June 30, 2015, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, which subsequently transferred it to this Court. See ECF No. 1. Petitioner seeks review of the Pennsylvania Board's July 13, 2011, recalculation decision, asserting that: (1) "Respondents subjected Petitioner to '[p]iecemeal [i]ncarceration' by extending his maximum date [of incarceration] by more than 20 years [beyond the date initially fixed by his Pennsylvania] sentencing court"; and (2) "Respondents subjected Petitioner to 'piecemeal incarceration' in contravention of the Interstate Agreement Detainers Act ("IAD")." See Pet. at 6, 8, ECF No. 1.

         On July 31, 2015, this Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin. ECF No. 3. The Commonwealth filed a response to the Petition on February 10, 2016, arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the Petition because the Petition constitutes a "second or successive" petition that Petitioner failed to receive authorization from the Third Circuit to file. See Commonwealth's Response, at 3-4, ECF No. 9.

         Judge Perkin issued a Report and Recommendation on February 25, 2016. ECF No. 10. Petitioner requested and received an extension of his time to file objections to the Report and Recommendation, see ECF No. 17 at n.l, and subsequently timely filed his objections on April 27, 2016, ECF No. 16. Petitioner also filed supplemental objections on May 18, 2016. ECF No. 18. The Petition is now ripe for disposition.


         A district court may refer an application for a writ of habeas corpus to a United States magistrate judge for a report and recommendation. See Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, R. 10 ("A magistrate judge may perform the duties of a district judge under these rules, as authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 636."). A prisoner may object to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation within fourteen days after being served with a copy thereof. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); E.D. Pa. Civ. R. 72.1(IV)(b). The district court then "make[s] a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.". 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district court does not, however, review generalized objections. See Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011) ("We have provided that § 636(b)(1) requires district courts to review such objections de novo unless the objection is not timely or not specific." (quoting Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984)). Ultimately, the district court "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).

         On habeas review, a federal court must determine whether the state court's adjudication of the claims raised was (1) contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, or (2) based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A state court decision is "contrary to" established precedent when the state court "applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases" or "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a different result from [Supreme Court] precedent." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). A state court decision involves an "unreasonable application" of established precedent when the "state court identifies the correct governing principle . . . but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 75.

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), on habeas review, a federal court must presume that factual findings of state trial and appellate courts are correct. Stevens v. Del. Corr. Ctr., 295 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). Petitioner may overcome this presumption only on the basis of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. See Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013) ("AEDPA requires 'a state prisoner [to] show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error . . . beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.' 'If this standard is difficult to meet'--and it is--'that is because it was meant to be.'" (alterations in original) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102, 103 (2011))); see also Stevens, 295 F.3d at 368.

         When considering a prisoner's pro se petition, a federal court should bear in mind that "[a] habeas corpus petition prepared by a prisoner without legal assistance may not be skillfully drawn and thus should be read generously." Rainey v. Varner, 603 F.3d 189, 198 (3d Cir. 2010); see also U.S. ex rel. Montgomery v. Brierley, 414 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969) ("It ...

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