Tag Archives: Writ of Error Coram Nobis

Is Padilla Simply a New Name for an Old Rule?

A recent case from the Northern District of Illinois passed on but did not decide the Padilla retroactivity question.  In a sort of unusual procedural backdrop, the petitioner in United States v. Chaidez (N.D. Ill. Jul. 8, 2010) filed a federal writ of error coram nobis challenging the validity of  her guilty plea arguing that she received ineffective assistance of counsel under Padilla prior to having pleaded guilty.  The court acknowledged that the petitioner might be entitled to relief if she could make the requisite ineffective assistance showing under Padilla but declined to make a definitive ruling until the petitioner has submitted a supplemental affidavit addressing a number of concerns from the court.  In the course of its decision, the Chaidez court addressed the Government’s contention that Padilla did not apply retroactively because it announced a new constitutional rule.  Here is what the court had to say about the Government’s contention:

The government argues that the court cannot apply the rule in Padilla in this case because Padilla announced a new constitutional rule which is not available for retroactive use in Chaidez’s collateral attack on her conviction. (See Govt.’s Supp. Resp., citing Teague v. Lane,489 U.S. 288 (1989).) But Chaidez does not seek retroactive application of Padilla—in fact, her petition was filed before the Supreme Court’s ruling. If Chaidez only recently learned of the deportation consequences of her plea, then she could not have been expected to raise this issue on direct appeal or in an earlier habeas case. Chaidez merely asks the court to apply the well-established rule in Strickland to find that her attorney provided ineffective assistance. The petitioner in Padilla sought the same relief. 130 S. Ct. at 1486. See also Santos-Sanchez,2010 WL 2465080 (granting coram nobis relief following the decision in Padilla). And, as the Supreme Court stated, “For at least the past 15 years, professional norms have generally imposed an obligation on counsel to provide advice on the deportation consequences of a client’s plea.” Padilla, 130 S. Ct. at 1485. Thus, if Chaidez can make the required showing under Strickland and under the standards for coram nobis relief, she will be able to challenge her attorney’s ineffective assistance at the time of her guilty plea.

While the court made clear that it was not deciding the question of retroactivity, its ruling, in my opinion, comes dangerously close to saying that Padilla does NOT create a new constitutional rule.  In essence, the court seems to say that Padilla simply added new teeth to the well-trodden world of potentially viable ineffective assistance of counsel claims.