Chandler v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 4/29/2016. (JLC)
2016 Apr-29 PM 12:01
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DAVID RONALD CHANDLER,
UNITED STATES OF
Case No.: 1:16-CV-8032-VEH
On March 28, 2016, the petitioner/movant, Ronald David Chandler, filed what
purported to be a petition for writ of audita querela (Doc. 1),1 together with a motion
for appointment of counsel to perfect the petition (Doc. 2). Despite his disclaimer
that he was not challenging the validity of his murder conviction or sentence,2
Chandler argued that the prosecutor was never properly appointed to prosecute the
case (or even appear in the case) and that his conviction was “tainted” as a result.
(Doc. 1, p. 2). On April 28, 2016, the undersigned explained, in the corresponding
The Clerk actually received the petition on March 31, 2016, but under the prison
mailbox rule, it is deemed filed on the date it was given to prison officials for mailing.
Chandler initially was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in
prison by President Bill Clinton in 2001.
criminal case,3 why Chandler’s motion was properly brought only under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. (See Doc. 577 in U.S. v. Chandler (citation at footnote 3)). This is the
undersigned’s response to that 2255 petition.
After a similar indictment against him in Alabama state court was dismissed,
Chandler was federally indicted4 for a number of drug-related crimes, including
operating a continuing criminal enterprise and the murder of informant Marlin Shuler,
on January 9, 1991. (Crim. Doc. 115). A jury found him guilty on April 2, 1991, and
he was sentenced to death on May 14, 1991. He filed his first motion to vacate under
28 U.S.C. § 2255 on March 20, 1995; it was denied by Judge Hancock on April 7,
1997, and the order was ultimately affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit sitting en banc.
See Chandler v. United States, 218 F.3d 1305 (11th Cir. 2000). President Clinton
commuted Chandler’s death sentence to life imprisonment on January 20, 2001. On
May 18, 2015, Chandler filed a motion styled as a “Motion Challenging Jurisdiction
in Violation of the United States Constitution.” (Crim. Doc. 549). Judge Hancock
treated it as a second or successive motion under section 2255 and dismissed it.
United States v. David Ronald Chandler, Case No. 1:90-cr-66-VEH-TMP. Citations to
this corresponding criminal action will be set out as “Crim. Doc. __.”
The original federal indictment was dated December 13, 1990, apparently before the
state indictment had been dismissed. The January 9, 1991, indictment was superseding.
(Crim. Doc. 553). This case was transferred to the undersigned on November 17,
In the present motion, Chandler claims that he does not challenge his sentence
or conviction, but he does ask the court to vacate its judgment. As the court explained
in the corresponding criminal action, he is seeking relief that is available to him only
under § 2255. And, this is his fourth such motion/petition.
It is well-settled law that second or successive petitions (SSP) under section
2255 must be dismissed unless certified by
a panel of the appropriate court of appeals to contain (1)
newly discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in
light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to
establish by clear and convincing evidence that no
reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty
of the offense; or (2) a new rule of constitutional law, made
retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme
Court, that was previously unavailable.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(h). “The bar on second or successive motions is jurisdictional.” In
re Morgan, 717 F.3d 1186, 1193 (11th Cir. 2013) (Pryor, J., concurring in denial of
rehearing en banc). “Whether a petition is second or successive depends on ‘the
judgment challenged.’” Patterson v. Sec'y, Florida Dep't of Corr., 812 F.3d 885, 898
(11th Cir. 2016) (Pryor, J., dissenting) (quoting Insignaries v. Sec’y, Fla. Dept. of
Corrections, 812 F.3d 885, 898 (11th Cir. 2014)).
Chandler’s motion is a SSP because it challenges the same judgment as his
previous three motions. Accordingly, he cannot proceed in this court unless he first
receives permission to do so from the United States Court of Appeals. Finding no
such permission, the motion is due to be DENIED for want of jurisdiction.5
A prisoner seeking to vacate his judgment has no absolute entitlement to appeal
a district court's denial of his motion. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1). Rather, a district court
must first issue a certificate of appealability (COA). Id. “A [COA] may issue ... only
if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.”
Id. at § 2253(c)(2). To make such a showing, a petitioner “must demonstrate that
reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the constitutional
claims debatable or wrong,” Tennard v. Dretke, 542 U.S. 274, 282 (2004) (quoting
Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000)), or that “the issues presented were
‘adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.’” Miller–El v. Cockrell, 537
U.S. 322, 335–36 (2003) (quoting Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 893 n. 4 (1983)).
When a district court dismisses a federal habeas petition on procedural grounds
In light of this denial, Chandler’s motion for the appointment of counsel, doc. 2, which
was frivolous anyway, is termed as MOOT.
without reaching the underlying constitutional claim, a COA should issue only when
a petitioner shows “that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition
states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right and that jurists of reason
would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural ruling.”
Slack, 529 U.S. at 484. Because the instant motion is clearly a successive section
2255 motion, Chandler cannot make the requisite showing. Finally, because Chandler
is not entitled to a COA, he is not entitled to appeal in forma pauperis.
DONE this 29th day of April, 2016.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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