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The “Not So Supreme” Court: State Law Dictates Supreme Court Decision in Chaidez


In the landmark case of Padilla v. Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a criminal defense counsel must inform a noncitizen criminal defendant of the deportation consequences of a guilty plea. The decision was based on long-standing principles governing effective assistance of counsel and the fact that immigration law has been intimately tied to the criminal process for nearly one hundred years. Then in Chaidez v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Padilla decision would not be applied retroactively to cases that were finalized before Padilla. The Court reasoned that Padilla was a new law that changed the law in many lower courts. This article argues that the Supreme Court erred in its ruling in Chaidez. First, Padilla was not new law but old law applied to a new factual context. Secondly, the U.S. Supreme Court incorrectly allowed state law to dictate their decision. The Padilla decision should apply retroactively and provide relief for thousands of defendants who were denied due process. However, because of the error in Chaidez, defendants like Roselva Chaidez—whose case was finalized one week before the Padilla decision— were denied the benefit of the Padilla decision and ultimately faced deportation.