Friday, February 22, 2013

Padilla Rule Does Not Apply Retroactively

The Supreme Court ruled this week in Chaidez v. United States that the rule announced in Padilla v. Kentucky (2010)--that a criminal defense attorney has to advise his or her client of the deportation risks of a guilty plea--does not apply retroactively to cases already final on direct review.

Retroactivity is governed by the rule in Teague v. Lane (1989).  Under that case, a person whose conviction is already final may not benefit from a "new rule" announced in a subsequent case.  That is: If the Court crafts a "new rule," it doesn't apply retroactively.  Only the application of a settled rule applies retroactively.  Thus the question here was whether the Padilla rule--that an attorney provides ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington by failing to advise the client that he or she could be deported if he or she pleads guilty--is "new." 

The Court in Chaidez said that the usual Strickland/IAC case does not produce a new rule, and therefore would apply retroactively.  But it also said that Padilla was a different sort of IAC case.  It was different because the Court in Padilla had to first determine whether the Strickland/IAC analysis applied at all to a case like that--a case involving collateral, not direct, consequences of an attorney error.  That was an open question before Padilla--and one that many states had resolved against the criminal defendant.  Therefore when the Court announced its rule in Padilla, it broke new ground: it answered an open question, and it answered it in a way that cut against a good deal of state and lower federal court jurisprudence.  This, it said in Chaidez, meant that Padilla set out a new rule, and that it would not apply retroactively.

Justices Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, dissented, arguing that Padilla did not set out a new rule, but instead simply applied the Strickland rule to a new set of facts.


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