Zong Lin: Padilla Not a New Rule, Retroactive


Score another victory for proponents of Padilla retroactivity.  The case is United States v. Zhong Lin and the jurisdiction is the United States District Court in the Western District of Kentucky.

The petitioner in this case filed a writ of coram nobis, arguing that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit tax fraud because of faulty advice legal advice he had received from his attorney prior to entering into his plea.  (The decision does not specify what this advice was.)  The basis for his claim rested squarely upon Padilla v. Kentucky — a case which the court found did not create a “new rule” and could therefore be applied retroactively.  These are the reasons the court offered for its retroactivity finding:

The language in Padilla strongly suggests that the decision does not create a new criminal rule. The Padilla court went to great lengths to advise that its decision will not “open the flood gates” to a significant number of new post-conviction petitions. 130 S.Ct. at 1485. This extensive discussion would not be necessary or make sense if Padilla only applied prospectively. Moreover, the court’s statement that “[i]t seems unlikely that our decision today will have a significant effect on those convictions already obtained as the result of plea bargains” also contemplates a retroactive application of the court’s decision. Id. Finally, the court’s discussion of the relationship between Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52 (1985) and Strickland reinforces the position that the court is not articulating a new rule in Padilla, 130 S.Ct. 1485 n.12. The Court concludes that Padilla did not create a new rule.

The more interesting aspect of this decision is that the court refers directly to the petitioner’s immigration and personal situations as reasons for which it was granting relief under the writ, going so far as to say that the removal of the petitioner “would be a great injustice.”  Which makes me wonder whether ICE will use this language in arguing that the petitioner is still deportable (i.e., because the relief was based on equitable rather than legally substantive/constitutional reasons).

The Zong Lin decision is available here.

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