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Thomas v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Martinsburg

January 8, 2019

ANTHONY VANZETTI THOMAS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          GINA M. GROH CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble. Pursuant to this Court's Local Rules, this action was referred to Magistrate Judge Trumble for submission of a proposed R&R. Magistrate Judge Trumble issued his R&R [ECF No. 182][1] on December 12, 2018. In his R&R, Magistrate Judge Trumble recommends that the Petitioner's Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [ECF No. 137] be denied and dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must conduct a de novo review of the magistrate judge's findings where objection is made. However, the Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge to which no objection is made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Failure to file timely objections constitutes a waiver of de novo review and of a Petitioner's right to appeal this Court's Order. 28.U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Snyder v. Ridenour, 889 F.2d 1363, 1366 (4th Cir. 1989); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984).

         Moreover, “[w]hen a party does make objections, but these objections are so general or conclusory that they fail to direct the district court to any specific error by the magistrate judge, de novo review is unnecessary.” Green v. Rubenstein, 644 F.Supp.2d 723, 730 (S.D. W.Va. 2009) (citing Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982)). “When only a general objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review.” Williams v. New York State Div. of Parole, No. 9:10-CV-1533 (GTS/DEP), 2012 WL 2873569, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. July 12, 2012). Courts have also held that when a party's objection lacks adequate specificity, the party waives that objection. See Mario v. P & C Food Markets, Inc., 313 F.3d 758, 766 (2d Cir. 2002) (finding that even though a party filed objections to the magistrate judge's R&R, they were not specific enough to preserve the claim for review). Bare statements “devoid of any reference to specific findings or recommendations . . . and unsupported by legal authority, [are] not sufficient.” Mario 313 F.3d at 766. Finally, the Fourth Circuit has long held, “[a]bsent objection, we do not believe that any explanation need be given for adopting [an R&R].” Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983) (finding that without an objection, no explanation whatsoever is required of the district court when adopting an R&R).

         Objections to Magistrate Judge Trumble's R&R were due within fourteen plus three days of service. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Service was accepted by the pro se Petitioner on December 17, 2018. ECF No. 183. The Petitioner filed his objections on December 26, 2018. ECF No. 184. Accordingly, this Court will review the Petitioner's objections to the R&R de novo. The Court will review the remainder of the R&R for clear error.

         II. Discussion

         Magistrate Judge Trumble recommends that this action be dismissed with prejudice because the Petitioner cannot show that: (1) his conviction or sentence was imposed in violation of the laws or Constitution of the United States; (2) the sentencing court lacked jurisdiction; (3) the sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law; or (4) that the sentence was otherwise subject to collateral attack. In his objections, the Petitioner only challenges the fourth finding. Specifically, the Petitioner argues that his sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack because his counsel, Nicholas J. Compton, was constitutionally ineffective.

         Upon review of all the filings in this matter, the Court finds that the Petitioner has not presented any new material facts or arguments in his objections. Rather, the objections reiterate the same arguments the Petitioner made in his original filings, which were considered by the magistrate judge when he issued the R&R. Specifically, these arguments can be found in the Petitioner's motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [ECF No. 137], the Petitioner's motion to amend his § 2255 as a matter of course [ECF No. 149], and throughout the October 10, 2018 evidentiary hearing [ECF No. 177]. Therefore, the Court finds that de novo review is not required because the Petitioner has failed to make specific objections that present new facts or arguments not already before the magistrate judge. Nevertheless, the Court will review the Petitioner's argument that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective below.

         A. Applicable Law

         In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the United States Supreme Court established a two-factor test to determine whether counsel was constitutionally ineffective. First, the Petitioner must show that his counsel's performance “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 688. “Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential, ” and the reviewing court must recognize that “counsel is strongly presumed to have rendered adequate assistance.” Id. at 689-90.

         Then, even if the court determines that counsel acted unreasonably, the judgment of the criminal proceeding will not be set aside unless counsel's performance was “prejudicial to the defense.” Id. at 692. “It is not enough for the defendant to show that the errors had some conceivable effect on the outcome of the proceeding.” Id. at 693. The Petitioner must show “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. at 694. “A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id.

         B. Analysis

         The Petitioner argues that his counsel, Nicholas J. Compton, was constitutionally ineffective because Mr. Compton: (1) failed to file an appeal on his behalf; and (2) failed to make various ...


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