The judicial creation of a new rule of law raises the essential question whether that rule is to be applied retroactively orprospectively only. The consistency of the traditionalm andatoryr etroactivityr ule has given way to a more flexible retroactivity ana sis. The change occurred in 1965 when the Supreme Court in Linkletter v. Walker squarelfaced a rule that, if applied retroactively, would have affected thousands of criminal convictions. The Linkletter doctrine has since defined the contours of federal retroactivity ana sis to include three basic considerations: purpose of the rule in question, reliance by theparties on the rule, and effect of retroactive application on the administration of justice. An examination of Supreme Court decisions since 1975 and of lower federal court decisions since 1971 leads Professor Corr to challenge the utility of the retroactivity doctrine articulated by the Supreme Court, in short, the logical appeal of the purpose-reliance-effect triad does not transfer well into practical application. Given the confusion and inconsistencies currentlypresent in the retroactivity anaosis of lower federal courts, it is suggested that more useful guidelines be developed in this complex area of the law. More importantly, it is also suggested that doctrinald evelopment should take into account the practicalp roblems of applying doctrine, and not merely such considerations as fairness or the abstract logical appeal of a doctrine.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Information

61 North Carolina Law Review 745-797 (1983)