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Eighth Circuit: Teague Analysis Bars Retroactive Application of Padilla Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim

by Christopher Zoukis

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), which bars retroactive application of new rules of criminal procedure on collateral review, applies to claims brought pursuant to Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), which ruled that criminal defense attorneys are ineffective when they fail to inform clients about the possible immigration consequences of pleading guilty. In practice, this means that criminal defendants in the Eighth Circuit may not collaterally attack a federal conviction on the basis of Padilla if they were convicted prior to the decision.

Roberto Barajas was convicted of knowingly possessing a stolen firearm in 2009, and after serving four months in prison, was deported. At the time of his conviction and sentence, it was an open question whether an attorney’s failure to advise a client of collateral consequences such as deportation could constitute ineffective assistance of counsel because Padilla had not yet been decided. After Padilla was issued, Barajas filed a petition for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, in which he argued that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel “by failing to inform him of the deportation consequences of his guilty plea.” Barajas relied on the holding in Padilla in his petition.

The district court initially granted Barajas relief, but an intervening U.S. Supreme Court decision caused the Eighth Circuit to reverse. That decision, Chaidez v. United States, 568 U.S. 342 (2013), held that Padilla announced a new rule under the Teague standard, and thus could not be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review. Because this is exactly what Barajas was asking the court to do, the district court denied his petition on remand. Barajas then appealed.

The Court noted at the outset that while the Chaidez holding would seem to immediately resolve Barajas’ appeal, because the Supreme Court left a footnote in Chaidez in which it explicitly declined to address whether Teague applies when a petitioner challenges a federal conviction, it did not. Barajas took this footnote and ran.

Barajas argued that in addition to the footnote in Chaidez, Teague itself involved collateral review of a state conviction. As such, he argued, Teague’s bar on retroactivity doesn’t apply to federal convictions. He supported this contention by arguing that the Teague decision was grounded more in the Supreme Court’s desire to prevent federal intrusion into state proceedings than in principles of finality.

The Eighth Circuit disagreed and ruled that Teague’s limit on retroactivity “applies to collateral review of both state and federal convictions.” This holding put the Eighth Circuit in line with the Second, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, which have all addressed this issue and ruled that Teague applies to collateral review of both federal and state convictions. The Eighth Circuit explained that in light of “the importance of protecting the finality of criminal convictions, we join our sister circuits….”

Barajas also argued that if Teague were grounded in principles of finality, it was superfluous in this context because Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), already protects finality interests in ineffective assistance of counsel cases. The Court did not agree because Teague’s bar on retroactive application of new rules exist for a different purpose than the Strickland protection of finality interests. Thus, the Court held that “Teague’s bar applies to federal petitioners raising ineffective assistance of counsel claims.”

Accordingly, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Barajas’ § 2255 petition. See: Barajas v. United States, 877 F.3d 378 (8th Cir. 2017). 

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