Coram Nobis

A Writ of Coram Nobis, is a challenge to a court's final judgment. The Writ of Coram Nobis is asking the court to set aside the conviction because new facts (new evidence) have become available to the court . The Writ of Coram Nobis is not an appeal, as the request for review in a Coram Nobis is directed to the court where the defendant was convicted, not an appellate court. The Writ of Coram Nobis is similar in scope to a Motion to Vacate Judgment.

In California, a Writ of Coram Nobis is a challenge to a criminal conviction and is only available if the petitioner (defendant) can establish the following three elements:

  1. 1. Some fact or evidence existed which, without the petitioner's (defendant) fault or negligence, was not presented to the court before the trial or during the plea, and which would have prevented the imposition of the judgment;
  1. 2. the new fact or facts do not go to the merits of the issues tried; and
  1. 3. this fact or facts were not known and could not, in the exercise of due diligence, have been discovered earlier.

The new facts or evidence must be newly discovered and not simply newly disclosed. The Writ of Coram Nobis is used to correct errors of fact and not errors of law and it is available only when the petitioner (defendant) has no other remedy available such as an appeal or a motion for a new trial.

The ultimate question faced by the judge hearing a Coram Nobis is whether the interests of justice would be promoted by granting the Writ. A Writ of Coram Nobis is considered a long shot and rarely granted in California. The court hearing the Writ has discretion to grant or deny the petition and the court cannot be reversed unless there is a showing of abuse of discretion.

Some of the scenarios where a Writ of Coram Nobis is granted include: an insane defendant who went to trial and the insanity of the defendant was unknown to the court and his /her attorney; a defendant's plea of guilty or no contest was acquired by extrinsic fraud; and where a guilty plea by a defendant was extorted through fear of mob violence. (Note: A Writ of Coram Nobis is unavailable in California Federal court to challenge a California court conviction.)

Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn about Writs of Coram Nobis.

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