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U.S. justices to rule on retroactivity of case involving guilty pleas by immigrants

April 30, 2012

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case that stems from its 2010 decision Padilla v. Kentucky, in which the justices held that criminal defense attorneys are obligated under the Sixth Amendment to advise noncitizen defendants about immigration consequences of pleading guilty. The justices will now rule on whether its decision is retroactive.

SCOTUS granted the petition for writ of certiorari Monday in Roselva Chaidez v. United States, No. 11-802, a case that comes from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Roselva Chaidez, a Mexican woman who became a lawful permanent resident in 1977, was indicted in 2003 for mail fraud. She pleaded guilty to two counts on the advice of her attorney, after which the government initiated removal proceedings to deport her. To attempt to avoid deportation, she filed a motion claiming her attorney was ineffective because she wouldn’t have pleaded guilty if she had known of the consequences. While her motion was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Padilla.

The Illinois federal judge held that Padilla applied to Chaidez’s case and vacated her convictions based on the belief that Padilla was retroactive. A split 7th Circuit reversed in August 2011, finding that Padilla announced a new rule so it was not retroactive. Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in her dissent that the plain language of Padilla shows it anticipated retroactivity.

“We can rest assured that defense lawyers will now advise their clients prior to pleading guilty about the immigration consequences of such a plea, as the Court has clarified that such advice is required under the Sixth Amendment. But given today’s holding, this is of no consequence to Roselva Chaidez despite the fact that professional norms in place at the time of her plea placed the same duty on her counsel,” she wrote.

 

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