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Sam Chinn v. M. Bradt

June 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. Mcavoy Senior United States District Judge



A. State Court Proceedings

The records supplied to this Court establish that an Onondaga County Grand Jury returned an indictment against petitioner, pro se Sam Chinn which charged him with murder in the second degree, contrary to New York Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 125.25(1); two counts of murder in the first degree, in violation of Penal Law § 125.27(1)(a)(v) and (b), and § 125.27(1)(a)(viii) and (b); and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, contrary to Penal Law § 265.02(1). See Dkt. No. 18-1 at 6-7 ("Indictment"). Thereafter, the Onondaga County District Attorney ("District Attorney") filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against petitioner. Dkt. No. 18-1 at 47.

On July 2, 1997, pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, petitioner appeared before Onondaga County Court Judge J. Kevin Mulroy and pleaded guilty to one count each of murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree, in satisfaction of all charges brought against him in the Indictment. Dkt. No. 12-1. On July 23, 1997, petitioner was sentenced by the trial court in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement to concurrent prison terms of life without parole on the first degree murder conviction, and twenty-five years to life on the second degree murder conviction. Dkt. No. 12-2 at 4.

On August 20, 1997, petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal with the Onondaga County Court. Dkt. No. 12-3. Thereafter, in an order dated May 19, 1998, the New York State, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department granted petitioner's applications to prosecute his appeal in forma pauperis and pro se, and ordered the Onondaga County Clerk's Office ("Onondaga County Clerk") to provide petitioner with copies of all papers, including transcripts, filed with the Onondaga County Clerk which related to that criminal matter. Dkt. No. 12-6 ("May, 1998 Order"). Pursuant to that order, the Onondaga County Clerk was specifically directed to provide petitioner with "copies of all papers and transcript[s] of stenographic minutes . . . of all proceedings had and filed in said Clerk's Office." Id.

Petitioner did not perfect that appeal, however, and on November 21, 2006, he filed a pro se motion pursuant to New York's Criminal Procedure Law Section 440.10 in which he sought to vacate the judgment of conviction based upon his claims that, among other things: (i) his guilty plea was not knowingly, voluntarily, or intelligently made; (ii) his conviction was the product of misconduct on the part of the police, the prosecutor, and the trial court; and (iii) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Dkt. No. 12-8. The District Attorney opposed that motion, Dkt. No. 12-11, and in an Order dated April 27, 2007, Onondaga County Court Judge William D. Walsh denied petitioner's motion in its entirety. Dkt. No. 12-12 ("April, 2007 Order"). In that Order, the county court noted that petitioner had: "filed and served a timely Notice of Appeal on August 20, 1997, and ha[d] yet to perfect that appeal. Inasmuch as the [petitioner's] claims rely heavily upon the record, the instant motion must be denied."*fn1 April, 2007 Order at 1. By application dated May 17, 2007, petitioner sought leave to appeal the April, 2007 Order, and also requested that the Appellate Division consolidate petitioner's appeal of that Order with his pending direct appeal. Dkt. No. 17. That application was opposed by the District Attorney, Dkt. No. 17-1, and on June 26, 2007, the Appellate Division denied petitioner's application. Dkt. No. 17-2.

On or about August 11, 2008, petitioner filed a pro se brief and record on appeal in the Fourth Department, and served a copy of his pro se brief on the District Attorney.*fn2 See Dkt. Nos. 17-5; 19-8 at ¶ 5. However, on August 20, 2008, those submissions were returned to petitioner by the Appellate Division, which noted, inter alia, that his submissions did "not contain a stipulation to the contents of the record or an order settling the record." Dkt. No. 17-5.*fn3

On June 1, 2009, the District Attorney moved to dismiss petitioner's appeal, based in part on his failure to perfect that appeal for over eleven years. Dkt. No. 17-6. That application was opposed by petitioner, Dkt. No. 17-8, and on July 28, 2009, the Appellate Division conditionally granted that application and ordered the dismissal of the appeal "unless the appeal is perfected on or before November 25, 2009." Dkt. No. 17-9. Petitioner thereafter sought and received additional extensions of that deadline from the Appellate Division, the last of which extended petitioner's deadline for perfecting his appeal to January 17, 2012. Dkt. No. 19-19.*fn4

The record further reflects that on September 1, 2009, petitioner filed a motion seeking to settle the record on appeal with the Onondaga County Court.*fn5 Dkt. No. 17-10. On October 9, 2009, the District Attorney filed a response to petitioner's application in which the District Attorney objected to the settlement of the record in the manner proposed by petitioner. Dkt. No. 18-3. On December 21, 2009, Judge Walsh issued a Decision/Order in which that court settled the record and discussed in detail the items that were to be included in the record on appeal. Dkt. No. 18-5 ("December, 2009 Order").

On May 25, 2010, petitioner filed a petition pursuant to New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR"), Article 78, in Onondaga County Supreme Court, requesting that such court deem "abandon[ed] and not enforceable" decisions or orders that were apparently referenced in the December, 2009 Order settling the record but which, according to the petitioner, did not "appear on the County Court Clerk's list as filed." Dkt. No. 18-6 at 3-4. Petitioner alternatively requested in that application that the District Attorney be directed to provide petitioner with a copy of all items contained in the "appeal record" that had not been previously provided to petitioner. Id. at 3. In response to that application, Acting Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice John J. Brunetti sent a letter to petitioner in which the court requested that petitioner specifically inform chambers as to what he was requesting that the court "order the District Attorney's Office to do;" and for the legal authority supporting petitioner's request. Dkt. No. 18-8. The petitioner thereafter filed responses to the trial court's inquiry, Dkt. Nos. 18-9, 18-10, and on July 12, 2010, Justice Brunetti issued a Decision/Order/Judgment in which he determined that petitioner could not obtain the relief he sought by way of an Article 78 proceeding, and therefore denied the application. Dkt. No. 18-11 ("July, 2010 Order"). Petitioner's request to appeal that decision to the Appellate Division was denied by that court in its order entered September 20, 2010. Dkt. No. 19-2 ("September, 2010 Order"). On October 14, 2010, petitioner filed an application with New York's Court of Appeals in which he sought leave to appeal the September, 2010 Order. Dkt. No. 19-3. On December 14, 2010, New York's Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's leave application. Dkt. No. 19-4.

B. This Action

Petitioner commenced this action by filing a habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on April 1, 2011. See Dkt. No. 1 at 13. Since that pleading did not comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules Governing Section 2254 cases in the United States District Courts, on May 3, 2011, this Court directed petitioner to file an amended pleading if he wished to proceed with this action. Dkt. No. 6. Petitioner filed that amended petition on May 26, 2011. Dkt. No. 7 ("Am. Pet.").

In his amended pleading, petitioner does not challenge his murder convictions, but instead asserts various claims related to his failure to perfect his appeal concerning those convictions. Specifically, in his initial ground, petitioner asserts that his direct appeal is subject to dismissal by the Appellate Division due to the misconduct of the "Onondaga County Justice System" and the "New York State Courts." Am. Pet., Ground One. He argues that notwithstanding the fact that the Appellate Division granted him permission to pursue his appeal, he was "only provided with a set of transcripts;" he did not receive copies of "Orders, Motions, and Replies" filed in the related criminal matter. Id. In his second ground, petitioner requests that this Court direct the Appellate Division to consider petitioner's appeal of the July, 2010 Order, and also appears to argue that Justice Brunetti erred when he concluded, in his July, 2010 Order, that such court did not have the authority to grant petitioner the relief he sought under Article 78. Am. Pet., Ground Two. That claim also appears to seek an order from this Court directing either the Onondaga County Court or the Onondaga County Clerk to provide petitioner with all materials he believes he needs in order to pursue his direct appeal. Id. In his third ground, petitioner argues that New York's Court of Appeals wrongfully denied his October 14, 2010 application seeking leave to appeal the September, 2010 Order, and seeks an ...

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