Monday, October 12, 2009

Supreme Court Tomorrow: Major Right to Counsel Case

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases tomorrow morning. The first case, Padilla v. Kentucky, is perhaps the major criminal procedure case of the Term.

Under federal immigration law a defendant who is not an American citizen can be deported if he is convicted of a crime which is designated an "aggravated felony." Defendant Padilla is not an American citizen. He is a legal permanent resident of the United States.

Prior to pleading guilty Padilla was advised by his attorney that his guilty plea would not affect his immigration status. The attorney's advice was incorrect--the crime to which he pled is an aggravated felony--and Padilla faces deportation because of the conviction.

Padilla sought to withdraw his guilty plea, but the Supreme Court of Kentucky held that his constitutional right to counsel in a criminal case did not include the right to receive accurate advice from his attorney about the immigration consequences of his guilty plea.

The United States Supreme Court will now review that determination. It is well settled that a defendant who states that he wishes to plead guilty must be informed of the consequences of that plea, such as the constitutional rights he is waiving and the sentence he can face if he pleads guilty. As the impact of federal immigration laws on criminal cases has become more apparent in recent years, there have been a growing number of cases across the country which address whether a defendant must also be informed--by his attorney or by the judge--of the immigration consequences of a plea of guilty. Padilla v. Kentucky should resolve the matter. Five amicus briefs on behalf of an assortment of organizations have been filed with the Supreme Court on behalf of Padilla. An amicus brief on behalf of 27 states supports the conclusion reached by the Supreme Court of Kentucky. New York did not join in that brief.

The second case tomorrow, Smith v. Spisak, addresses a procedural matter under the federal statute governing petitions for writs of habeas corpus.

No comments:

Post a Comment