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Supreme Court rules on retroactivity of Padilla

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2013 | Criminal Law & Municipal Court |

Rosevela Chaidez was a permanent resident of the United States. She was arrested for mail fraud in connection with an insurance scam, and was advised by her lawyer to plead guilty. Her lawyer advised her to plead guilty, and she only received four years of probation. Unfortunately for Ms. Chaidez, her lawyer did not advise her of the immigration repercussions of her guilty plea, and the United States government promptly initiated removal proceedings. Ms. Chaidez brought forward a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, and while her motion was pending Padilla v. Kentucky was decided. There, the court held that when an attorney fails to advise a client that a guilty plea could result in deportation, then there is ineffective assistance of counsel. While it might seem that this would be great news for Ms. Chaidez, her troubles were not yet over. First, the district court came to the conclusion that Padilla did not constitute a new rule, and thus applied it to Ms. Chaidez’s case. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagreed, reversed the decision and announced that as a new rule, it could not be retroactively applied. This has all culminated in a decision that was decided by the Supreme Court. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Padilla rule applied to people whose convictions were finalized before its announcement. The importance of this question lay in its application. For if it did apply, then the Padilla ruling would apply retroactively to all cases before it. The decision itself may appear simple on its face. It is the application of the “retroactivity doctrine”, which states that a Supreme Court decision only effects cases that take place after the decision was made, or those which were appealing the decision. However, that only applies when a new rule is made. If the Supreme Court merely restates an old rule, then it applies to all criminal cases, even those already decided. One may wonder though, why a new decision wouldn’t apply retroactively. Certainly, if it is more just than an old rule, then everyone should benefit from it? In Teague v. Lane the Supreme Court answered this question.There is an interest in the idea of “finality” in regard to criminal convictions. Otherwise, every time a new rule is created, all former cases would have to be revisited.The Supreme Court delivered a 7-2 decision against Ms. Chaidez. The Court held that, as per Padilla, a new rule was created that put advice about possible deportation under the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. And as new rule, it would not retroactively applied to Ms. Chaidez’s case. It should be noted though, that while the decision was 7-2, Justice Thomas concurred only to the holding, not to the reasoning behind it. As he had dissented in Padilla, arguing that the Sixth Amendment only protects criminal defendants against inadequate assistance for the charged offense, not possible consequences. Both Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented, arguing that Padilla only restated that an attorney’s responsibility to a client. Regardless, the takeaway is that in all future cases, an attorney must advise his client of the immigration consequences of any proposed plea or conviction; however, since Padilla announced a new rule, its holding will not be applied retroactively.