Trujillo v. State, No. 58937.

Docket NºNo. 58937.
Citation129 Nev. Adv. Op. 75, 310 P.3d 594
Case DateOctober 10, 2013
CourtSupreme Court of Nevada

310 P.3d 594
129 Nev.
Adv. Op. 75

Walter TRUJILLO, Appellant,
v.
The STATE of Nevada, Respondent.

No. 58937.

Supreme Court of Nevada.

Oct. 10, 2013.


[310 P.3d 595]


Michael H. Schwarz, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Steven S. Owens, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent.


BEFORE GIBBONS, DOUGLAS and SAITTA, JJ.

OPINION

By the Court, DOUGLAS, J.:

Appellant Walter Trujillo was convicted of a felony in 1996 and was honorably discharged from probation the following year. More than a decade later, he filed a petition for a writ of coram nobis in district court seeking relief from the judgment of conviction because he was not informed by his trial counsel of the immigration consequences of his plea. At issue is whether the common-law writ of coram nobis may be used in Nevada. We hold that the common-law writ of coram nobis is available under Article 6, Section 6(1) of the Nevada Constitution, which grants district courts the power to issue writs that are proper and necessary to the complete exercise of their jurisdiction, and NRS 1.030, which continues the common law under some circumstances. But we further hold that, consistent with NRS 34.724(2)(b) and the exclusive remedy created by the Legislature for post-conviction

[310 P.3d 596]

challenges to a judgment of conviction, the writ may only be used by a person who is no longer in custody on the judgment of conviction being challenged. And to be consistent with NRS 1.030, we further hold that the writ is limited to the scope of the common-law writ and therefore may be used only to challenge errors of fact outside the record that could not have been raised earlier and that affect the validity and regularity of the decision itself and would have precluded the judgment from being rendered. Because the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim raised by Trujillo is not within that limited scope, we affirm the decision of the district court to deny the petition for a writ of coram nobis.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 12, 1996, Trujillo, a citizen of Venezuela, was convicted of attempted burglary and sentenced to serve a term of 12 to 30 months in prison. The sentence was suspended, and a period of probation not to exceed 2 years was imposed. Trujillo did not appeal his conviction and never sought post-conviction relief from his conviction. He honorably discharged probation on December 31, 1997.

The conviction had immediate deportation consequences for Trujillo. Shortly after sentencing, he was taken into federal custody, and a federal judge ordered him deported to Venezuela. Trujillo successfully challenged the deportation order and was issued a green card and given permanent-resident status. He took no further action regarding citizenship until 2010.

Learning in 2010 that he could not become a United States citizen because of his 1996 conviction, Trujillo filed a petition for a writ of coram nobis attacking the validity of his conviction. In the petition, Trujillo claimed that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of the immigration consequences of his conviction, contrary to Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 176 L.Ed.2d 284 (2010). Trujillo asserted that a petition for a writ of coram nobis was the only available remedy to challenge his 1996 conviction.

The State argued that the writ of coram nobis was abolished by NRS 34.724(2)(b), which provides that a post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for challenging a judgment of conviction. Responding to that argument, Trujillo argued that the legislative history for NRS Chapter 34 does not indicate that a petition for a writ of coram nobis was one of the common-law remedies replaced by a habeas corpus petition under NRS 34.724(2)(b). Trujillo asserted that the provision was only intended to eliminate the post-conviction relief petition under NRS Chapter 177.1

The district court construed the petition for a writ of coram nobis to be a post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus, determining that a common-law petition for a writ of coram nobis was not available because the writ was superseded by the exclusive-remedy language in NRS 34.724(2)(b) and because the claim raised by Trujillo was a legal claim that exceeded the scope of the common-law writ. Deciding that the petition was timely filed from the decision in Padilla and that Padilla applied retroactively, the district court nonetheless denied relief because Trujillo had not demonstrated that counsel's failure to inform him of the immigration consequences prejudiced him as he was an undocumented, illegal immigrant.

DISCUSSION

Preliminarily, we conclude that the district court incorrectly treated the petition as a post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus because Trujillo was not in custody at the time he filed his petition. Nev. Const. art. 6, § 6(1); NRS 34.724(1); Jackson v. State, 115 Nev. 21, 23, 973 P.2d 241, 242 (1999). As a result, the question this court is then tasked to answer is whether the writ of coram nobis exists in Nevada. To answer that question, we must address two interrelated issues: the sources of authority to recognize the writ and the scope of the writ. To

[310 P.3d 597]

set the stage, we briefly examine the history of the writ.

Historical overview of coram nobis

The writ of coram nobis is an ancient writ that developed in sixteenth century England. Judge Stanley H. Fuld, The Writ of Error Coram nobis, 117 N.Y.L.J. Nos. 130–132, at 2212, 2230, 2248 (1947); James MacPherson, Comment, Coram nobis: “The Wild Ass of the Law,” 11 Loy. L.Rev. 100, 101 (1961–62); Richard B. Amandes, Coram nobis—Panacea or Carcinoma, 7 Hastings L.J. 48, 49 (1955–56). At the time, errors of law could be raised to Parliament and the Exchequer, but errors of fact were excluded from their review. Fuld, supra. The writ of coram nobis was devised as a means of reviewing errors of fact outside the record that affected the validity and regularity of the decision itself and would have precluded the judgment from being rendered had they been known. Id. The ancient writ, quae coram nobis residant (“let the record and proceedings remain before us”), was directed to the Court of the King's Bench and was issued in the King's name.2Id. The writ was sought before the same court that had entered the judgment and could only be used to address an error of fact not known to the court and not negligently concealed by the defendant. Amandes, supra, at 49. Some examples of the kinds of errors of fact that were reviewed through a writ of coram nobis include clerical errors, the infancy of the defendant and nonrepresentation by a guardian, the common-law disability of coverture (the married woman's disability to appear on her own in court), the death of a party before the verdict, the insanity of the defendant at the time of trial, a guilty plea procured by extrinsic fraud, and a valid defense that was not made because of fraud, duress, or excusable neglect. See People v. Hyung Joon Kim, 45 Cal.4th 1078, 90 Cal.Rptr.3d 355, 202 P.3d 436, 445–47 (2009); see also Fuld, supra; Amandes, supra, at 49. The writ of coram nobis was rarely used, and by the time of Blackstone, it was considered to be obsolete. Fuld, supra.

In America, the writ developed slowly. It was acknowledged as early as 1834 when the United States Supreme Court recognized that its counterpart, the writ of coram vobis, might be available in state court to challenge an error of fact relating to a defendant's immunity from suit. Davis v. Packard, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 312, 324, 8 L.Ed. 957 (1834). Despite this early acknowledgment, over the next century, the writ of coram nobis, at least federally, remained a rather archaic vehicle for relief; it was acknowledged as a common-law writ but was not utilized by the courts. See Bronson v. Schulten, 104 U.S. 410, 416–17, 26 L.Ed. 797 (1881) (recognizing the availability of the writ at common law but questioning its modern availability and determining that the court did not have the power to set aside, vacate, and modify a final judgment after the end of the term during which the judgment was rendered); United States v. Mayer, 235 U.S. 55, 68–69, 35 S.Ct. 16, 59 L.Ed. 129 (1914) (recognizing the availability of coram nobis at common law, but expressing no opinion as to whether coram nobis existed because the errors complained of, prosecutorial misconduct and juror bias, would not have been the type of errors reviewable under the common law).

This quiet period ended in 1954 when the United States Supreme Court reinvigorated the writ of coram nobis in the seminal case United States v. Morgan, 346 U.S. 502, 74 S.Ct. 247, 98 L.Ed. 248 (1954). Morgan sought to challenge a federal conviction that was being used to enhance a subsequent state conviction on the ground that he was denied the right to counsel in the federal proceeding. 346 U.S. at 503–04, 74 S.Ct. 247. The Supreme Court determined that a motion in the nature of coram nobis could be sought in a criminal case based on the all-writs language in 28 U.S.C § 1651. Id. at 505–11, 74 S.Ct. 247.28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), then and now, provides that the federal courts “may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Without any analysis as to how

[310 P.3d 598]

the writ of coram nobis was necessary and appropriate to the jurisdiction of the courts, the Morgan majority appeared to indicate that its usage was agreeable based on the writ's common-law history and its use in the various states and circuits. Id. at 507–10, 74 S.Ct. 247. While the Court acknowledged that at common law the writ was limited to errors of fact, the Court observed that the writ had been used more broadly in various states and lower courts. Id. at 507–08, 74 S.Ct. 247. The Court...

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58 practice notes
  • State v. Hutton, No. 14–0603.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 16, 2015
    ...plea procured by extrinsic fraud, and a valid defense that was not made because of fraud, duress, or excusable neglect.Trujillo v. State, 310 P.3d 594, 597 (Nev.2013). Finally, it has been said that the writ “exists to afford a remedy against injustice-when no other remedy is available.” Pe......
  • Hart v. Warden, N.H. State Prison, No. 2017-0665
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • January 24, 2019
    ...violations of the Constitution and laws of the United States," in addition to correcting factual errors. Trujillo v. State, 129 Nev. 706, 310 P.3d 594, 598 (2013) (citing cases); see Morgan, 346 U.S. at 512-13, 74 S.Ct. 247, 98 L.Ed. 248 (1954) (holding that coram nobis is available to corr......
  • State v. Hutton, No. 14-0603
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 16, 2015
    ...by extrinsic fraud, and a valid defense that was not made because Page 13 of fraud, duress, or excusable neglect. Trujillo v. State, 310 P.3d 594, 597 (Nev. 2013). Finally, it has been said that the writ "exists to afford a remedy against injustice-when no other remedy is available." Petiti......
  • Commonwealth v. Descardes, No. 2836 EDA 2010
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 23, 2014
    ...a quality discussion of the difference in federal coram nobis jurisprudence and the common law writ, see Trujillo v. Nevada, –––Nev. ––––, 310 P.3d 594 (2013). That case discusses whether a defendant could use coram nobis to raise a Padilla claim under Nevada law.2 I am cognizant that the U......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • State v. Hutton, No. 14–0603.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 16, 2015
    ...plea procured by extrinsic fraud, and a valid defense that was not made because of fraud, duress, or excusable neglect.Trujillo v. State, 310 P.3d 594, 597 (Nev.2013). Finally, it has been said that the writ “exists to afford a remedy against injustice-when no other remedy is available.” Pe......
  • Hart v. Warden, N.H. State Prison, No. 2017-0665
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • January 24, 2019
    ...violations of the Constitution and laws of the United States," in addition to correcting factual errors. Trujillo v. State, 129 Nev. 706, 310 P.3d 594, 598 (2013) (citing cases); see Morgan, 346 U.S. at 512-13, 74 S.Ct. 247, 98 L.Ed. 248 (1954) (holding that coram nobis is available to corr......
  • State v. Hutton, No. 14-0603
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 16, 2015
    ...by extrinsic fraud, and a valid defense that was not made because Page 13 of fraud, duress, or excusable neglect. Trujillo v. State, 310 P.3d 594, 597 (Nev. 2013). Finally, it has been said that the writ "exists to afford a remedy against injustice-when no other remedy is available." Petiti......
  • Commonwealth v. Descardes, No. 2836 EDA 2010
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 23, 2014
    ...a quality discussion of the difference in federal coram nobis jurisprudence and the common law writ, see Trujillo v. Nevada, –––Nev. ––––, 310 P.3d 594 (2013). That case discusses whether a defendant could use coram nobis to raise a Padilla claim under Nevada law.2 I am cognizant that the U......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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