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Revisiting Constitutional Retroactivity in New York After Danforth: Should Padilla and Other Supreme Court Guilty Plea Counsel Cases Prompt a Change From Eastman-Teague, or Adherence to Chaidez?

Nearly two decades ago, in People v. Eastman, the New York Court of Appeals––in considering whether or not to apply a newly announced rule of criminal procedure under the United States
Constitution to criminal cases pending solely on state court collateral review––concluded that state courts were “constitutionally commanded” to apply the rubric fashioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Teague v. Lane and its federal common law sequellae in determining such issues. Eastman, however, was decided well before the Supreme Court’s clarifying decision in Danforth v. Minnesota, which expressly relieved state courts of any obligation to adhere to the Court’s Teague jurisprudence.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent series of landmark Sixth Amendment rulings in Padilla v. Kentucky, Missouri v. Frye, and Lafler v. Cooper––which expanded the Court’s Strickland v. Washington jurisprudence to include the right to effective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining––and the Court’s subsequent ruling in Chaidez v. United States, which restricted the retroactive application of its ruling in Padilla under Teague, afford the New York Court of Appeals the opportunity to assess the continuing utility of its ruling in Eastman. This Essay examines the possible approaches the New York Court of Appeals might take when addressing Eastman’s application to these newly announced federal right-to-counsel rules. It further examines what each option would portend for New York’s future consideration of the retroactive application of new rules of federal criminal constitutional procedure in right-to-counsel plea cases and generally.

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