The Court’s decision in Chaidez v. United States, elegantly described by Rebecca Sharpless here, was a woeful misstep. The Chaidez majority appears to have paid heed to Justice Scalia, whose dissent in Padilla was a jeremiad forecasting “years of elaboration upon these new issues in the lower courts.” Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473, 1496 (2010). Eager to stem the tide of Padilla-based claims, the Chaidez Court applied the Teague v. Lane rule in circumstances that would have the original proponents of the doctrine howling, and that ignored and retreated from the Court’s most recent decision concerning the application of Teague.
In its 2008 decision in Danforth v. Minnesota, the Court explained Teague as a rule that addressed not the “retroactivity” of a constitutional rule, but the “redressability” of its violations. The Court cautioned against the “shortcomings” of the “retroactivity” vocabulary and its “temporal terms.” These lessons were lost in Chaidez.
Danforth explained that the Teague “redressability” rule determines the availability of relief in a precise procedural context, federal habeas corpus review of a state-court criminal judgment. The Danforth Court clearly cabined Teague, holding it inapplicable in state-court postconviction proceedings and leaving open the question whether it would apply in federal postconviction proceedings concerning federal criminal judgments. The Chaidez Court undid this careful work in one sentence, broadly and falsely claiming, without supporting authority or reference to Danforth, that Teague bars application of a “new rule” in a “habeas or similar proceeding.”
Danforth would counsel that for purposes of the Teague bar to relief Roselva Chaidez’s case, a federal coram nobis review of a federal-court criminal judgment is in no way a “similar proceeding” to a federal habeas review of a state-court judgment. But the Court brushed aside Roselva Chaidez’s argument that Teague should not apply in her case, holding in footnote 16 that her argument was not properly raised below and would not be considered. It is hard to see, though, how the Court can justify applying Teague in this new procedural setting unless the Court has reverted to viewing Teague as a retroactivity rule (that defines the temporal scope of a constitutional rule) and not a redressability rule (that determines whether violations of a constitutional rule will merit relief in a particular procedural setting).
The Danforth Court also acknowledged the doctrinal roots of Teague’s redressability rule in concerns with the comity owed state-court judgments by federal courts and the finality interest in not upsetting a criminal conviction. Application of Teague to a new context like Chaidez’s case demands a thoughtful consideration of the extent to which comity and finality concerns are at play. Here again the Chaidez Court failed, ignoring Chaidez’s argument (holding it unpreserved) that because her ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim was a “first-tier” review claim her case should be treated as though it were on the direct appeal track (where retroactivity is the rule, per Griffith v. Kentucky). The Court understood this point in its 2012 decision in Martinez v. Ryan. In Chaidez, the Court’s unwillingness to apply the same logic once again speaks to an abandonment of the redressability view of Teague.
Roselva Chaidez raised her ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim at the proper procedural moment and using the correct procedural vehicle. A challenge to her claim as time-barred was properly rejected by the district court. The Padilla case was decided while her claim was pending, and the district court ruled on her claim after Padilla was decided. Given this procedural posture, the comity and finality concerns behind the Teague rule are nowhere in sight. The Chaidez Court was wrong to hold her claim Teague-barred.
Chaidez is susceptible to two alternative readings. On the one hand, it appears the Court may have lost its way, and forgotten the truths of Teague expounded just four years ago in Danforth. Even more dismal, it may be that the Court was simply so eager to shut off the flow of Padilla claims that it was willing to ignore the implications of the procedural posture of Roselva Chaidez’s case when it granted certiorari. That the Court explicitly left open the arguments she raised, that were central to a proper “redressability” analysis, provides some hope for others but stands as a sad memorial of the injustice done to one person.