Category Archives: Criminal Procedure

Another post-Chaidez case: Chavarria v. United States

For those of you who are still following the Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla and its treatment by the lower courts, the Seventh Circuit recently issued a notable decision in which it might have put the final nail in the coffin of pre-Padilla claims.

The case is Chavarria v. United States, No. 11-3549 (7th Cir. decided Jan. 9, 2014).  There petitioner there relied mainly on pre-Padilla law as the reason why he should be entitled to post conviction relief.  His argument, which resembles one I have used, without success, in the past, was that even before Padilla, courts recognized ineffective assistance counsel claims for cases where a lawyer had affirmatively misadvised a client on the immigration consequences of a conviction; as opposed to when a lawyer gave no advice at all, which, everyone seems to agree, did not give rise to a claim of ineffective assistance until Padilla.

The Seventh Circuit made short work of this argument, however, and not in a way that benefitted the petitioner.  It noted that the distinction between affirmative misadvice and no advice was irrelevant because, until Padilla, the courts never recognized a Sixth Amendment, ineffective assistance claim based on a collateral consequence of a conviction like deportation.

The Seventh Circuit relied, ironically, on Padilla itself in arriving at this conclusion.  I say that because the petitioner sought relief on the exclusive basis of pre-Padilla law, which went entirely unaddressed by the Seventh Circuit.  Therefore, unless the Seventh Circuit was implying that Padilla, in essence, overruled all past precedent in which courts gave post conviction relief to individuals who had been deported in violation of their Sixth Amendment rights — and there are such cases out there, as even the Seventh Circuit acknowledged — I am not sure how I see the Seventh Circuit reached the result it did.  Nor can I see how Padilla could have overruled the decisions which preceded it which held in one form or fashion that an attorney can be liable for giving his client wrong advice about a conviction’s impact on his immigration status.  That would be a truly perverse result where the Supreme Court in Padilla came down on the side of post conviction relief.  The implied message of the decision in Chavarria, then, seems to be that in order to expand the universe of rights for one set of folks (those whose convictions became final after Padilla), the Supreme Court had to contract the universe of rights for another (those with  convictions that became final pre-Padilla).  That can’t be right, can it?  Or am I missing something?

I have copied and pasted the decision below since its fairly short.

JULIO CESAR CHAVARRIA, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 11-3549.United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

Argued October 1, 2013.Decided January 9, 2014.Before CUDAHY, RIPPLE, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

This case involves an ineffective assistance of counsel claim concerning the effect of Chavarria’s guilty plea on his immigration status. Defendant Julio Cesar Chavarria, born in Mexico, became a legal permanent resident of the United States in 1982. In 2009, Chavarria was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, four counts of distributing cocaine.

One year later, the United States Supreme Court decided Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010). Padilla imposed a duty on criminal attorneys to inform noncitizen clients of deportation risks stemming from plea agreements, and for the first time held that the Sixth Amendment supported ineffective assistance of counsel claims arising from legal advice, or the lack thereof, involving the prospect of deportation resulting from guilty pleas. See Chaidez v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 1103, 1110 (2012)(explaining the new Padilla rule). Chavarria then filed a pro se motion involving such a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

Chavarria alleged that his criminal trial counsel responded to his deportation queries by indicating that Chavarria need not worry about deportation—specifically that “the attorney had checked with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement . . . and they said they were not interested” in deporting him. Chavarria also alleged that his attorney had counseled him to defer to the cues of his attorney during questioning by the district court. In connection with his § 2255 motion, Chavarria filed a Petition to Stay Deportation Proceedings, but by the time counsel had been appointed for these motions, he had already been deported. The government subsequently sought to dismiss Chavarria’s § 2255 motion based, in part, on the contention that Padillaannounced a new rule not to be applied retroactively. The district court denied the government’s motion for dismissal, holding that the Padilla rule could be applied retroactively.

Shortly thereafter, we issued our opinion in Chaidez v. United States, 655 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 2011). The Chaidez majority concluded that Padilla was a new rule and not retroactive. In light of Chaidez, the district court vacated its ruling based on the retroactivity of Padilla, and dismissed Chavarria’s § 2255 motion.

Chavarria appealed, challenging both our decision in Chaidez, and the district court’s application of it here. After the government filed its response brief, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Chaidez and subsequently affirmed. After Chaidez thus foreclosed Chavarria’s argument that Padilla was retroactive, he now argues thatChaidez distinguished between providing no advice (actionable under the Padillarule) and providing bad advice (actionable under pre-Padilla law).

 

I.

 

At the outset we briefly note that Chaidez foreclosed any argument that Padilla was retroactive, the original basis of Chavarria’s appeal. On collateral review, lacking retroactivity, we will look only to the state of the law at the time the conviction became final. For that reason, Chavarria originally argued that Padilla did not propound a new rule, but that it was merely another step in the evolution of ineffective assistance claims. However, the Supreme Court decided definitively that Padillaannounced a new rule, which was not retroactive, when it affirmed our decision inChaidez. Chaidez, 133 S. Ct. at 1105.

II.

His retroactivity argument gone, Chavarria now argues that under Padilla only failure to advise of immigration consequences constitutes ineffective assistance under the Sixth Amendment, but affirmative misadvice provides an alternative basis for a constitutional claim under pre-Padilla law.

This argument about affirmative misadvice is based on certain Chaidez language, which recognized precedent from three circuits holding that, pre-Padilla,misstatements about deportation could support an ineffective assistance claim.Chaidez, 133 S. Ct. at 1112 (“Those decisions [in three circuits] reasoned only that a lawyer may not affirmatively misrepresent his expertise or otherwise actively mislead his client on any important matter, however related to a criminal prosecution.”). Thus, Chavarria argues that Padilla is irrelevant to Chavarria’s situation—because affirmative misrepresentations have long been subject to challenge under the test ofStrickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).

Chavarria’s argument fails, first, because the distinction between affirmative misadvice and non-advice was not a relevant factor in Padilla. Second, the precedent, pre-Padilla, supporting the application of Strickland in this context is insufficient to satisfy Teague v. Lane. 489 U.S. 288, 301 (1989)(holding that to impart retroactivity, a rule must be supported by ample existing precedent).

A lawyer’s advice about matters not involving the “direct” consequences of a criminal conviction—collateral matters—is, in fact, irrelevant under the Sixth Amendment; such advice is categorically excluded from analysis as professionally incompetent, as measured by Strickland. Padilla departed from this direct-collateral distinction because of the “unique” nature of deportation. Padilla, 559 U.S. at 366. That case determined that “a lawyer’s advice (or non-advice)” should not be exempt from Sixth Amendment scrutiny without reference to the traditional distinction between direct and collateral consequences. Chaidez, 133 S. Ct. at 1110. Therefore, in its analysis, the Padilla majority was unconcerned with any distinction between affirmative misadvice and non-advice; because, until Padilla was decided, the Sixth Amendment did not apply to deportation matters at all. Id. (“It was Padilla that first rejected the categorical approach— and so made the Strickland test operative—when a criminal lawyer gives (or fails to give) advice about immigration consequences.”). Thus, regardless of how egregious the failure of counsel was if it dealt with immigration consequences, pre-Padilla, both the Sixth Amendment and the Strickland test were irrelevant.

The Chaidez majority jointly referred to both misadvice and non-advice throughout its opinion. There is no question that the majority understood that Padilla announced a new rule for all advice, or lack thereof, with respect to the consequences of a criminal conviction for immigration status. If taken out of context, language inChaidez offers some support for Chavarria’s argument, but that language is contradicted by a substantial amount of more specific language in the same opinion.See e.g., Chaidez, 133 S. Ct. at 1110 (referring jointly to scrutiny of a lawyer’s misadvice and “nonadvice”).

Ironically, Chavarria asks us to recognize a distinction between misadvice and non-advice, even though Padilla was itself about an affirmative misrepresentation. In fact, this distinction, which is thin on its own terms, fails on Padilla’s facts. Thus, Chavarria is essentially asking us to hold that Chaidez held that the Padilla rule is not retroactive except on Padilla’s own facts (which involved misadvice). In fact, thePadilla majority, in responding to the government’s argument to limit its holding, specifically discussed limiting its holding to only affirmative misadvice, but did not because of the posible absurd results. Padilla, 559 U.S. at 370-71. This discussion signals that the Padilla majority had no intent to exclude either affirmative misadvice or non-advice from the new rule it announced.

Finally, Chavarria relies on cases from three federal circuits to prove that the distinction between affirmative misadvice and the failure to advise, and a constitutional rule based on that distinction constitutes pre-Padilla precedent. Yet, under Teague, the rule sought by Chavarria must be dictated by existing precedent.Teague, 489 U.S. at 301. Chavarria cannot simply show the existence of such a distinction, but instead he must show that the distinction was so evident “that all reasonable judges, prior to Padilla, thought they were living in a Padilla-like world.”Chaidez, 133 S. Ct. 1112.

The Court supported this conclusion by reiterating the trend among the lower courts, which viewed such collateral deportation matters as beyond the reach of the Sixth Amendment. Id. at 1113. The Court stated, “[o]n those courts’ view, the Sixth Amendment no more demanded competent advice about a plea’s deportation consequences than it demanded competent representation in the deportation process itself. Padilla decided that view was wrong. But to repeat: it was Padilla that did so.” Id. The material misrepresentations that were upheld by those three circuits cannot support a constitutional rule to be applied retroactively, since an old rule is one “limited to those holdings so compelled by precedent that any contrary conclusion must be deemed unreasonable.” See Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 538 (1997). At the time Chavarria’s case became final, precedent did not dictate that preclusion of an ineffective assistance claim was unreasonable when it arose from an attorney’s material misrepresentation of a deportation risk. Thus, even if this Court were to find the misadvice/nonadvice distinction relevant to this analysis, it does not have the clear precedential weight to be considered a pre-Padilla rule.

The district court correctly concluded that it was bound by Chaidez and that Padillahad no retroactive effect on Chavarria’s case. Having determined that the distinction between affirmative misadvice and failure to advise does not somehow evade the non-retroactivity of Padilla, we AFFIRM.

Maryland and Padilla Retroactivity

The issue of Padilla retroactivity is not dead yet, well not entirely.  The Court of Appeals of Maryland, the State’s highest court, recently decided the case of Lincoln Miller v. State, No. 94, Sept. Term 2012.  In a 4-3 decision, the Court denied postconviction relief for a native of Belize based on a claim that he was not advised of the immigration consequences of his conviction.

The case has a long and convoluted procedural history which stems from the fact that it has been pending for a long time,  before the Supreme Court even decided Padilla.  It is not at all clear what the majority decides in this case aside from  ruling that the petitioner is not entitled to relief.  There’s discussion about Padilla retroactivity in light of Maryland and federal law (in a previous decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals held Padilla could be applied retroactively under the state’s retroactivity framework) but the majority opinions doesn’t make any inroads on the issue.    The dissent, in contrast, argues that Padilla should be applied retroactively under Maryland law.

The following concurrence by Judge McDonald is perhaps the best take on both the majority and dissent opinions:

I will explain why I join neither of the thoughtful opinions in this case, although it may simply reveal my own ignorance in this arena. I agree with the result reached by the Majority opinion, but do not follow its reasoning — it says it is not applying the Teague standard for retroactivity, but is compelled to follow the result in Chaidez,which was based on the Teague standard. The Dissent points that out and states quite clearly that it believes a different standard set forth in this Court’s Daughtrycase should be applied. But I do not grasp the distinction that the Dissent makes between the Daughtry standard and the Teague standard in reference to this case, particularly in that the Dissent relies on Justice Sotomayor’s dissent in Chaidez — a dissent that applied the Teague standard.

In the end, I find Justice Kagan’s analysis for the Chaidez majority persuasive and would apply it here, whether one views it an application of the Teague standard or another standard that operates similarly. That brings me to the same place as the Majority.

The full decision can be downloaded here.

 

Calm Before the Storm?

It has been almost four months since the Supreme Court decided Chaidez, and the courts have been mostly silent on how this decision applies to both pre- and post-Chaidez cases.  Granted, a number of courts have interpreted Chaidez expansively to foreclose any claim that seeks the retroactive benefit of Padilla.  But this surely is not the right result given Chaidez’s intentionally narrow holding, and there is at least one case that will be testing the correctness of this assertion.  Commonwealth v. Sylvain, No. SJC-11400 (Sup. Jud. Ct. of Mass.).  In any event, I have yet to see a flood of dismissals based on the one-size-fits-all theory of Chaidez; yet further proof that Padilla itself did not open the floodgates to claims of ineffective assistance, as Justice Stevens astutely observed would not be the case.  I wish I had more to report but I don’t.  If anyone wishes to share any Padilla/Chaidez-related news, please do.

Transcript of Oral Arguments in Chaidez Released

The transcript of the oral arguments in Chaidez, which took place yesterday, can be accessed here.  The initial take on the arguments is that less than a majority of the Justices seemed to think that Padilla could be applied retroactively.  Moreover, it didn’t seem like this was a case where the outcome would rest on a swing vote; but if there were one, I would say it would be probably be Justice Kennedy.

The arguments were covered by the New York Times and Reuters.  The Times also has an editorial today in which it urged the Court to apply Padilla retroactively to Ms. Chaidez’s case and vacate her conviction.

No Longer the New Gideon

After the Supreme Court announced its decisions in the Frye and Lafler cases, the news media, if I recall correctly, promptly declared it the dawn of a new era — one that meant significant new protections for the criminal defendant.  Some even went so far as to call the decisions in Frye and Lafler the “new Gideon”.

Not so says the Eleventh Circuit, at least when it comes to new rule, retroactivity.  In In re: Michael Perez, No. 12-12240, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the notion that Frye and Lafler (ineffective assistance applies to plea bargaining) announced “new rules” within the meaning of Teague’s retroactivity framework, and held, instead, that the decisions were “merely an application of the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, as defined in Strickland, to a specific factual context.”  The court’s rejection of “new rule” status for Frye and Lafler makes it harder for one to argue that these decisions revolutionized the practice of criminal defense.  And, it adds weight to the argument that no such revolution took hold when the Supreme Court announced a similar, Strickland-based decision in Padilla v. Kentucky.  Simply put, if Frye and Lafler did not announce a new rule under Teague, Padilla, surely, could not have done so.

It will be interesting to see if a similar Circuit-split develops with respect to the retroactive effect of Frye and Lafler, and how such rulings might affect the present controversy over Padilla retroactivity.  Might the Supreme Court take note of the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling in Perez in deciding Chaidez?  Perhaps.  Especially if asked to by counsel.

The opinion in In re: Michael Perez can be downloaded here.

Memorial Day 2012 Padilla Retroactivity Update

I hope everyone is having a nice and meaningful Memorial Day.  I believe I have some serious catching up to do in the Padilla retroactivity department for which I apologize.

First off, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently issued a decision which addressed the issue of whether Padilla can be applied retroactively.  The case is United States v. Amer and the Fifth Circuit held that Padilla cannot be applied retroactively because it is a “new” rule under Teague.  A few things to note about this decision.  First, the Fifth Circuit prefaced its opinion by acknowledging that the issue of Padilla retroactivity is currently pending before the Supreme Court vis-a-vis the Chaidez case.  Amer, slip op. at 2-3 (“We look forward to likely resolution of this question by the Supreme Court, however, in the interim, we join the Seventh and Tenth Circuits in holding that Padilla announced a ‘new’ rule within the meaning of Teague”).  This, coupled with the brevity of the Fifth Circuit’s opinion in Amer — the opinion is all but six pages — signals, to me at least, that the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Amer is less the product of a court seeking to answer a thorny legal question than it is an effort by the court to fortify the Padilla non-retroactivity contingent so as to sway the Supreme Court itself in whatever ruling it makes in the Chaidez case.  It is also interesting to note that although the district court ruled in favor of the petitioner it did so on an issue that was different from the one that was addressed and answered by the Fifth Court, at least from how the Fifth Circuit summarized the lower court’s decision (I have yet to read it).  Is this perhaps another indication of judicial overreaching by the Fifth Circuit?

In any event, the decision in Amer can be downloaded here.

In other Padilla retroactivity news, the Supreme Court of Florida recently heard oral arguments in its own Padilla retroactivity case, Hernandez v. State.  You can watch a webcast of the arguments here.  The Court has also made available the transcript of the oral argument, which can be downloaded here.

Lastly, the Social Science Research Network or SSRN has published a few articles  concerning Padilla; one pertains to Padilla’s on-the-ground relevance and utility for the criminal defense attorney, the other, to Padilla’s applicability under the Teague’s watershed exception to non retroactivity.

A Right Without A Remedy (Again?)

In a notable Padilla-related decision, the Eleventh Circuit today ruled that Padilla   does not constitute a “watershed”rule of criminal procedure such that it does not cure an otherwise untimely section 2255 habeas petition.  The case is Figuereo-Sanchez v. United States, No. 10-14235 (11th Cir. May 1, 2012).  Judge Carnes wrote a unanimous decision for the three-judge panel (the other two judges being  Beverly Martin and Adalberto Jordan).

It is important to note that in concluding that Padilla did not constitute a “watershed” rule of criminal procedure, the Eleventh Circuit assumed but expressly declined to decide that Padilla was a “new rule” for Teague retroactivity purposes.  It was able to do so, in part, because both parties agreed that Padilla was a new rule under Teague.  Accordingly, those who wish to argue before a court in the Eleventh Circuit that Padilla can be applied retroactively because it is NOT a new rule can still do so without worrying too much about contrary authority.  Indeed, the Eleventh Circuit seemed to leave the door open for a Padilla old rule argument in footnote 4 of the opinion in which the court noted, “If the decision merely clarified an old rule, then the decision applies retroactively.” (citing Williams, 529 U.S. 362, 392 … (“[I]t can hardly be said that recognizing the right to effective assistance of counsel breaks new ground or imposes a new obligation on the states.”) (quotation marks omitted).

The end result is an unfortunate one for the petitioner, however, since he prevailed in the first half of his appeal — the Court of Appeals found the trial court erred when it failed to give the petitioner so-called “Castro” warnings before it recharacterized his pleadings as a 2255 petition — but lost on timeliness grounds.

The opinion can be downloaded here.