U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS: Chicago woman fighting deportation can't benefit from 2010 decision on lawyer duty to warn

Some criminal defendants whose lawyers failed to warn them about the immigration consequences of guilty pleas won’t be able to benefit from a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The defendants won’t benefit if their conviction was final before March 31, 2010, the date of the decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 opinion (PDF) issued Wednesday. Padilla had held that lawyers have a Sixth Amendment obligation to warn about possible deportation as a result of guilty pleas.

Padilla is not retroactive because it established a new rule, according to the majority opinion by Justice Elena Kagan. “When we decided Padilla,” Kagan wrote, “we answered a question about the Sixth Amendment’s reach that we had left open, in a way that altered the law of most jurisdictions—and our reasoning reflected that we were doing as much.”

The court ruled in the case of Roselva Chaidez, a Chicago woman and legal permanent U.S. resident who is fighting the government’s attempt to deport her because of a 2003 guilty plea to mail fraud in an auto insurance scheme.

Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in the judgment but said he continues to believe Padilla was wrongly decided. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in an opinion joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The dissenters argued that Padilla was retroactive because it merely applied existing law in a new setting.

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