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Chaidez v. United States

United States Supreme Court

Decided February 20, 2013

133 S.Ct. 1103, 185 L.Ed.2d 149

 Summary: The Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the holding in Padilla v. Kentucky is retroactive.  The Court found that the holding of Padilla (i.e. that an attorney must inform his/her client that there may be immigration consequences to a guilty plea in a criminal case) was not retroactive because it constituted a new rule under the Court’s Teague v. Lane analysis.

            For practitioners this means that any client that took a plea in a criminal case prior to March 31, 2010 (decision date of Padilla) may not move to have the conviction vacated on the grounds that his/her attorney failed to advise about immigration consequences.  However, note that if the attorney gave the client wrong advice rather than no advice, and told the client that there would not be any immigration consequences, then this would be grounds to vacate the conviction because this is the old rule in New York and continues to be the rule.

 Issue: Whether the holding in Padilla v. Kentucky applied retroactively to cases prior to March 31, 2010.

 Holding: Padilla does not apply retroactively to cases already final on direct review.

Facts: Immigration officials initiated removal proceedings against petitioner Chaidez in 2009 upon learning that she had pleaded guilty to mail fraud in 2004. To avoid removal, she sought to overturn that conviction by filing a petition for a writ of coram nobis, contending that her former attorney’s failure to advise her of the guilty plea’s immigration consequences constituted ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. While her petition was pending, this Court held in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 176 L.Ed.2d 284, that the Sixth Amendment requires defense attorneys to inform non-citizen clients of the deportation risks of guilty pleas. The District Court vacated Chaidez’s conviction, determining that Padilla did not announce a “new rule” under Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334, and thus applied to Chaidez’s case. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Padilla had declared a new rule and should not apply in a challenge to a final conviction.

Legal Analysis: In order to determine whether the Padilla rule applied retroactively the Supreme Court used the analysis under Teague v. Lane to determine whether the Padilla rule was an “new rule” or an old rule being applied in a new situation. If deemed a new rule then the holding in Padilla would not be applied retroactively, but if it were an old rule then it would be applied retroactively. The Supreme Court found that the Padilla holding constituted a new rule and that it does not apply retroactively.

Teague makes the retroactivity of our criminal procedure decisions turn on whether they are novel. When we announce a “new rule,” a person whose conviction is already final may not benefit from the decision in a habeas or similar proceeding.3 Only when we apply a settled rule may a person avail herself of the decision on collateral review. Here, Chaidez filed hercoram nobis petition five years after her guilty plea became final. Her challenge therefore fails ifPadilla declared a new rule.

A case announces a new rule, Teague explained, “when it breaks new ground or imposes a new obligation” on the government. To put it differently,” we continued, “a case announces a new rule if the result was not dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant’s conviction became final.” Ibid. And a holding is not so dictated, we later stated, unless it would have been “apparent to all reasonable jurists.

But that account has a flipside. Teague also made clear that a case does not “announce a new rule, [when] it ‘[is] merely an application of the principle that governed’ ” a prior decision to a different set of facts.  Where the beginning point” of our analysis is a rule of “general application, a rule designed for the specific purpose of evaluating a myriad of factual contexts, it will be the infrequent case that yields a result so novel that it forges a new rule, one not dictated by precedent. Otherwise said, when all we do is apply a general standard to the kind of factual circumstances it was meant to address, we will rarely state a new rule for Teague purposes.

 So when we decided Padilla, we answered a question about the Sixth Amendment’s reach that we had left open, in a way that altered the law of most jurisdictions—and our reasoning reflected that we were doing as much. In the normal Strickland case, a court begins by evaluating the reasonableness of an attorney’s conduct in light of professional norms, and then assesses prejudice. But as earlier indicated, see supra, at 1107 – 1108, Padilla had a different starting point. Before asking whether the performance of Padilla’s attorney was deficient under Strickland, we considered  whether Strickland applied at all.  Many courts, we acknowledged, had excluded advice about collateral matters from the Sixth Amendment’s; and deportation, because the consequence of a distinct civil proceeding, could well be viewed as such a matter.  But, we continued, no decision of our own committed us to “appl[y] a distinction between direct and collateral consequences to define the scope” of the right to counsel.  And however apt that distinction might be in other contexts, it should not exempt from Sixth Amendment scrutiny a lawyer’s advice (or non-advice) about a plea’s deportation risk. Deportation, we stated, is “unique.” It is a “particularly severe” penalty, and one “intimately related to the criminal process”; indeed, immigration statutes make it “nearly an automatic result” of some convictions. Ibid. We thus resolved the threshold question before us by breaching the previously chink-free wall between direct and collateral consequences: Notwithstanding the then-dominant view, “Strickland applies to Padilla’s claim.

If that does not count as “break[ing] new ground” or “impos[ing] a new obligation,” we are hard pressed to know what would.