In an opinion stating that the importance of accurate legal advice for noncitizens has never been more important, the U.S. Supreme Court today said that lawyers now have a constitutional obligation to advise their clients of the immigration-related consequences of a criminal conviction. The plaintiff in Padilla v. Kentucky is Jose Padilla (not the convicted terrorist), who was born in Honduras, lived in the United States legally for over 40 years, and served as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Charged with marijuana possession, he followed his attorney's advice to plead guilty and was deported.
Justice Stevens wrote for the majority:
It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant -- whether a citizen or not -- is left to the 'mercies of incompetent counsel.'
The State Bar, through its Criminal Issues Initiative, has taken the lead in informing attorneys and the public about the collateral consequences of conviction. Resources are available on the State Bar's website:
Client Questionnaire PDF Developed by attorneys, for attorneys to be utilized with clients in the information-gathering phase to assist in obtaining information to avoid unnecessary civil collateral consequences.
For the Public
The opinion (PDF) drew sharp dissenting criticism from Justice Alito, who described the new obligation as a major burden on lawyers given the complexity of immigration law, and called the ruling "a major upheaval in Sixth Amendment law." Justices Scalia also dissented, joined by Justice Thomas.
Photo NYC, 1920. Original caption: Photo shows anarchists, reds, and radicals who were rounded up in NYC in last nights raids, arriving at Ellis Island. These undesirables will remain at Ellis Island until investigation and deportation proceedings have been completed. Many arrested in Newark and other nearby cities arrived at the Island during the afternoon.