The Commission charges LaChance with his positive test for cocaine, refusal to participate in a drug program, failure to appear at a hearing/interview, and leaving the district without permission (all of which occurred in 1992) and the 1988 conviction described above. Of those violations, only the 1988 conviction could serve as a basis for forfeiting Lachance's whole time of almost seven years on parole, see 18 U.S.C. § 4210(b)(2).
At the time of that conviction, the Commission had not forfeited, nor threatened to forfeit, LaChance's parole time, whether already served or to be served in the future. It merely issued a letter of reprimand.
The issue is whether LaChance should be released on bail during the pendency of his administrative appeal.
The court has the power to grant bail in a case such as this, but "only in 'most unusual circumstances,' or when 'extraordinary or exceptional circumstances make the grant of bail necessary to make the habeas remedy effective.'" Robin v. Thomas, 555 F. Supp. 849, 852 (S.D.N.Y. 1983), quoting Galante v. Warden, Metropolitan Correctional Center, 573 F.2d 707, 708 (2d Cir. 1977). Crucial to the petitioner's case is a showing of some special or exceptional circumstances that distinguish him from other parole violators. See Argro v. United States, 505 F.2d 1374, 1377 (2d Cir. 1974):
While there is no constitutional right to bail in these circumstances, we think there may be adequate ground to support its grant in unusual cases, at least in a bona fide inquiry into whether a parole revocation is being conducted pursuant to due process.
LaChance argues that the Commission has no power to extend its jurisdiction over him past his original maximum term on the basis of the 1988 conviction. He contends that under 18 U.S.C. § 4210(b)
the Commission has only the power to determine whether an unexpired parole term should run concurrently or consecutively with the sentence imposed for a new offense. He argues that because he was not imprisoned for his 1988 conviction, the Commission may not hold him past his maximum term. He claims that the regulation codified in 28 C.F.R. § 2.52(c)(2),
which does not require an "actual term of confinement or imprisonment" before a conviction may be used to forfeit parole time, is inconsistent with the statute.
It is unnecessary to decide that point, however, for LaChance also argues that even if the Commission has the statutory authority to extend his original maximum term by forfeiting his whole parole time, it lost that authority by waiting too long to act and by misleading him. That claim has merit. Even in regard to the revocation of probation, the Commission's discretion is not unlimited:
Revocation of probation after unreasonable delay or under circumstances inherently misleading to the probationer is an abuse of discretion.
We do not hold that under appropriate circumstances a probation officer or district court may not wait to assess the cumulative effect of several violations before initiating a revocation proceeding. We also do not suggest that revocation proceedings should be an automatic reaction to technical or minor violations simply to preserve the government's position. At some point, however, violations of which the district court has been apprised and upon which the probationer has sought corrective action become stale or are waived as a basis for revoking probation. Three years is beyond that point under the circumstances of this case.
United States v. Hamilton, 708 F.2d 1412, 1415 (9th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted). See also, United States v. Tyler, 605 F.2d 851, 853 (5th Cir. 1979) (delay of two years coupled with probation officer's initial decision not to file charges is "fundamentally unfair").
The contemplated forfeiture of all of LaChance's parole time, from 1985 to 1992, would impose a second, and much more serious sanction for LaChance's 1988 conviction. It would go far beyond the possible consequences mentioned in the contemporaneous reprimand for that incident, which warned LaChance only that "continued disrespect and non-compliance with your conditions of release will result in your arrest and return to federal custody." Nothing in the letter indicated that the conviction (with its maximum term of fifteen days) might be used over four years later as an excuse for adding almost seven years to his term.
The government's contention that it was appropriate for the Commission to wait and assess the cumulative effect of several violations before forfeiting LaChance's parole time is specious. The Commission may forfeit parole time only on the basis of a conviction which is punishable by a term of imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 4210 (b). Therefore, while failing a drug test, refusing to get drug treatment, missing an interview and leaving the district are violations which can support a revocation of parole, only LaChance's 1988 conviction could support the forfeiture. Even with his subsequent violations, at some point a prior conviction upon which the Commission had taken timely action may no longer serve as a basis for forfeiting all of a parolees street time. Under the circumstances, it appears that LaChance has good grounds for expecting that the National Appeals Board will overturn the Commission's determination.
LaChance has "raised a substantial challenge to the legality" of the Commission's actions, Toomey v. Young, 449 F. Supp. 336, 338 (D. Conn. 1978), aff'd, 589 F.2d 123 (2d Cir. 1979). The Appeal Board's final decision will not be made by the expiration of his maximum term on February 18, 1993, see Galante v. Warden, Metropolitan Correctional Center, 447 F. Supp. 64, 66 (1977) (bail is appropriate in cases of "short sentences so near completion that, without bail, collateral review would be ineffective"), aff'd, 573 F.2d 707 (2d Cir. 1977). Accordingly, interim bail is appropriate.
On February 18, 1993, his original latest release date, LaChance is to be admitted to bail upon appropriate conditions.
Dated: New York, New York
February 11, 1993
LOUIS L. STANTON