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    The Lawletter Blog

    CRIMINAL LAW: Retroactivity of Supreme Court Decision in Padilla v. Kentucky

    Posted by Gale Burns on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 @ 12:11 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 8

    Mark Rieber, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         In Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel requires an attorney for a criminal defendant to provide advice about the risk of deportation arising from a guilty plea.  In Chaidez v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 1103 (2013), the Supreme Court held that Padilla announced a "new" rule under Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), and thus does not apply retroactively to collateral challenges under federal law.  Despite Chaidez, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that under Massachusetts law, the Sixth Amendment right enunciated in Padilla was not a "new" rule and, consequently, that defendants may attack their convictions collaterally on Padilla grounds.  Commonwealth v. Sylvain, 466 Mass. 422, ___ N.E.2d ___ (2013).

         Sylvain decided that under Massachusetts law, the court may give broader retroactive effect to Padilla as a matter of state law than Padilla would otherwise enjoy under federal law. The Massachusetts court explained that although in an earlier decision it had adopted the Teague retroactivity framework, including Teague's original construction of what constitutes a "new" rule, the Supreme Court's post-Teague expansion of what qualifies as a "new" rule has become so broad that decisions defining a constitutional safeguard rarely merit application of collateral review.  Sylvain concluded that it would continue to adhere to the Supreme Court's original construction that a case announces a "new" rule only when the result is "not dictated by precedent."  Under this narrower interpretation, Sylvain determined that Padilla did not announce a "new" rule, because "it applied a general standard—designed to change according to the evolution of existing professional norms—to a specific factual situation."  Id. at 435, ___ N.E.2d at ___.  Accordingly, Sylvain held that the defendant in the case before it, whose conviction was final at the time Padilla was decided, was entitled to seek relief under the Sixth Amendment right recognized in Padilla.

    Topics: legal research, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 8, criminal law, Mark Rieber, retroactivity of Padilla, Chaidez v. United States, Commonwealth v. Sylvain, new rule not dictated by precedent, Amendment VI right to effective counsel

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