The writ of errors Coram Nobis is the equivalent of the writ of habeas corpus for those that are not incarcerated. It applies to those that have already been convicted of a crime and have served out their sentence. The phrase Coram Nobis is Latin meaning “the errors before us”.
In New York and many other states the Coram Nobis is the remedy to bring when there is no other statutory remedy. In New York Coram Nobis remains part of the common law; however, under Federal law Coram Nobis has been codified under the All Writs Act.
The Writ of Errors Coram Nobis was originally a common law writ coming from England. The main purpose of the writ is to allow a trial court to correct its own errors (hence the name the errors before us) after the judgment or sentence has been entered.
The writ of errors Coram Nobis is usually brought to correct an error of fact that was not apparent on the record, not attributable to the defendant’s negligence, and if the court were aware of it at the time, it would have prevented the judgment or conviction.
It can be brought in federal court under the All Writs Act 28 U.S.C. 1651.
This petition is useful for a multitude of purposes. If you have arguments that are post-sentence or if you have been sentenced to probation – as long as there is no other statutory remedy for your legal issue you may bring a writ of errors Coram Nobis. Stated another way – when you have no other remedy look to see if you can make your argument under Coram Nobis.
In Federal Court the Coram Nobis can be brought to the trial court where a defendant has completed his sentence or is serving probation to correct the same errors that a Habeas Corpus petition would be used.
However, in New York, the Criminal Procedure Law has codified much of the common law writ procedure under Article 440. Generally, the only avenue for the writ of errors Coram Nobis is now to argue ineffective assistance of counsel at the appellate level.
One of the advantages of the Coram Nobis is that it is not subject to all the rules that the Habeas Corpus petition is subject to under the Anit-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. For example, a Habeas petition must be brought within one year of the exhaustion of a direct criminal appeal. However, the Coram Nobis is not subject to the strict time limitations under that statute.
The famous example of the Coram Nobis at work is the case of Korematsu v. United States where in 1984 a U.S. District Court overturned a criminal conviction from 1944 of a Japanese American that was held in an internment camp during World War II.
If you think that the Coram Nobis applies to your case, you should contact me as I am an attorney experienced in this area of the law.