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Barajas v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 5, 2017

Roberto Barajas Petitioner - Appellant
United States of America Respondent - Appellee

          Submitted: September 22, 2017

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Sioux City

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

          GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

         Roberto Barajas appeals the denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Because the district court[1] correctly found that Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), bars the application of the Supreme Court's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), we affirm.


         In 2009, Barajas pleaded guilty to knowingly possessing a stolen firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), an offense categorized as an "aggravated felony" under federal immigration law. 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(E)(ii). Federal law provides that "[a]ny alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at any time after admission is deportable." Id. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Because Barajas is a citizen of Mexico and otherwise satisfied § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), he was deported after serving his four-month term of imprisonment.

         In September 2010, Barajas filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition.[2] He claims that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to inform him of the deportation consequences of his guilty plea. At the time Barajas's conviction became final, and even after his sentence ended, it was unclear if an attorney's failure to inform a client of collateral consequences like deportation could constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. In Padilla, however, the Supreme Court held that criminal defense attorneys have a duty to inform clients about the possible immigration consequences of pleading guilty in order to provide effective counsel under the Sixth Amendment. 559 U.S. at 374. Barajas relied on Padilla in his § 2255 petition. In 2012, citing Padilla, the district court granted Barajas's § 2255 petition and found that his counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty. The Government timely appealed.

         In 2013, while the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided Chaidez, which held that Padilla announced a "new rule" under the Teague standard and thus cannot be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review. See 568 U.S. at 348-49. In light of that decision, we reversed the district court's order and remanded for further consideration. On remand, the district court denied Barajas's § 2255 petition, finding that Teague bars the application of Padilla's new rule in this case.[3] Barajas now appeals the district court's decision, arguing that Teague's bar on retroactive application of new rules does not apply to collateral review of federal convictions, especially in the context of ineffective assistance of counsel claims.


         We review determinations of 28 U.S.C. § 2255 relief de novo and any underlying findings of fact for clear error. Pierce v. United States, 686 F.3d 529, 531 (8th Cir. 2012).

         In Teague, the Supreme Court adopted a uniform rule to "clarify how the question of retroactivity should be resolved for cases on collateral review." 489 U.S. at 300. It held that "new rules" of criminal procedure "should not be applied retroactively to criminal cases on collateral review." Id. at 303-04. A case announces a new rule "when it breaks new ground[, ] imposes a new obligation on the States or the Federal Government, " or when "the result [is] not dictated by precedent." Id. at 301.[4] The Teague Court grounded its decision to bar retroactive application of new rules in systemic concerns about ensuring the finality of criminal convictions and respecting principles of comity and federalism. Id. at 308-10.

         When the Supreme Court held in Padilla that "advice regarding deportation is not categorically removed from the ambit of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, " 559 U.S. at 366, and thus that Strickland v. Washington's standard of "reasonable professional assistance" applies to such advice, id. at 365-66, it did not address whether it was announcing a "new rule" for Teague purposes. Three years later, in Chaidez, the Court clarified that Padilla indeed announced a new rule. 568 U.S. at 354. The Court noted that, although it had applied Strickland "in diverse contexts without ever suggesting that doing so required a new rule, " id. at 348, Padilla was not simply an application of Strickland, id. at 348-49. Indeed, "had Padilla merely made clear that a lawyer who neglects to inform a client about the risk of deportation is professionally incompetent, " it would not have constituted a new rule. Id. Instead, "prior to asking how the Strickland test applied ('Did this attorney act unreasonably?'), Padilla asked whether the Strickland test applied ('Should we even evaluate if this attorney acted unreasonably?')." Id. at 349. The answer to "that preliminary question about Strickland's ambit . . . required a new rule, " which cannot be applied retroactively. Id.

         Based on this conclusion, the Chaidez Court explained that "defendants whose convictions became final prior to Padilla . . . cannot benefit from its holding." Id. at 358. Although at first blush this statement would seem to resolve the present appeal, the scope of this general proposition is somewhat uncertain. In a footnote, Chaidez explicitly declined to address whether Teague applies when a petitioner challenges a federal conviction, especially when such a challenge is based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at 358 n.16 (explaining that those arguments were not raised properly below). Barajas's appeal argues that Teague should not apply in such cases. He suggests that federal cases do not involve Teague&#39 ...

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