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Denial of post-conviction relief upheld by COA

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Even if the Indiana Court of Appeals was to assume that a defendant’s trial counsel performed below prevailing professional norms by not explaining the potential immigration consequences of his guilty plea, the judges ruled the defendant wasn’t prejudiced because the trial court explained those consequences.

In Roberto Barajas v. State of Indiana, 10A01-1208-PC-387, Roberto Barajas asked the COA to reverse the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which alleged his trial counsel was ineffective for not explaining to him the deportation consequences of his 2006 guilty plea to Class D felony possession of cocaine.  Barajas is not a citizen of the U.S. and speaks just a little English. Ramona Sharp translated his guilty plea hearing.

The trial judge at Barajas’ hearing explained to him that by pleading guilty, he could face immigration consequences, such as deportation. The judge allowed Barajas and his attorney time to speak off the record to determine whether he would continue to plead guilty. After the break, Barajas said he wanted to plead guilty and that his attorney did a good job representing him.

Last year, Barajas filed his petition for post-conviction relief. At the hearing, he said he was taken into custody by immigration authorities based on the 2006 conviction. He attempted to call Sharp as a witness, but she did not show on the first day and he decided on the second day not to call her.

The trial court denied his petition based in part on the trial court’s warnings to Barajas on deportation consequences for pleading.

The record shows Sharp translated the guilty plea hearing, Barajas told the court he understood Sharp, the court advised him of potential deportation consequences, and that he told the court his attorney did a good job representing him.

Even if his attorney’s performance was inefficient, it didn’t prejudice Barajas because of the trial judge’s advisement, the COA held. In addition, Barajas testified at the post-conviction hearing that he recalled Sharp telling him something about those potential consequences, but he didn’t remember what she said.

“This belies Barajas’ claim that he did not understand the guilty-plea proceedings. Thus, the post-conviction court was free to make a credibility determination on this issue,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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