In its latest review of cert. candidates that have been relisted by the Supreme Court, SCOTUSblog noted some unusual activity with a case out of the Seventh Circuit that involves the application of Padilla v. Kentucky. The case is Mario Reeves a.k.a. Rio v. United States, No. 12-8543 (7th Cir case no. 11-2328). SCOTUSblog seemed to think that the Court relisted the Reeves case in light of its recent decision in Chaidez. Reeves is an example of efforts by individuals to expand the scope of Padilla to cover advice on consequences of a conviction other than deportation. In Reeves, the defendant argued that a prior state court conviction was invalid under Padilla because his attorney in that case did not inform him that his conviction could later be used to enhance a sentence imposed against him in a future and entirely distinct criminal case. It’s an interesting argument, but one that the Seventh Circuit did not buy. Notably, the Seventh Circuit made no mention of whether Padilla could even be retroactively applied to assess the conduct of the defendant’s attorney, whose role in the case ended some time in 2004; its decision seemed to assume without deciding that it did.
In any event, the Supreme Court docket for the case indicates that the defendant is now being represented by attorneys from Northwestern University and Sidley Austin. Perhaps this plus the relist is a sign of good things to come for Mr. Reeves. If anyone has a copy of the cert. petition in Reeves, I would really like to read it. In the meantime, the Seventh Circuit’s decision can be downloaded here.
UPDATE: The Supreme Court denied Mr. Reeves’ cert. petition on March 18, 2013.
The core of the majority’s decision in Chaidez rests on the notion that before Padilla no court would have granted postconviction relief to a foreign national defendant under Strickland based on an attorney’s failure to give deportation advice because deportation was considered a collateral, not a direct, consequence of a conviction. It is this dispositive aspect of the collateral v. direct distinction and, to the majority, Padilla’s “rejection” of it, that makes Padilla a particularly novel decision and one ill-suited for retroactive application. The problem, it seems to me, with the majority’s analysis is that it overstates the importance or effect of the collateral v. direct divide, and it is also a demonstration that judges who have little or no on-the-ground experience, as is the case with Kagan, make bad law. (There is a reason Kagan was assigned to write the opinion which I will get to a bit later.) To take just one example: if what the majority stated was true, and courts really made mince meat out of Padilla-like ineffective assistance claims pre-Padilla based on the collateral-direct divide, then few if any of the cases which presented these claims before Padilla should have made it past the pleading stage, let alone being decided on their merits in published decision after published decision. I do not think that is how courts treated Padilla-like claims in the pre-Padilla era, however. Instead, courts still decided Strickland claims pertaining to deportation advice on their merits even if they ended up denying them based on the collateral v. direct distinction. In other words, there was no question that Strickland defined the standard of competent representation received by foreign nations in criminal cases pre-Padilla, the debate rather was over how that standard should be defined in such cases. To take yet another example: let’s say an individual is irked by his attorney’s performance in an immigration matter which ended up in his removal and in a misguided effort to prevent his removal brings a claim in federal district court alleging ineffective assistance under Strickland. There would be no question as to the applicability of Strickland or the fate of his claim; it would fail and fail big because Strickland applies only to criminal, not civil, cases. But Strickland squarely governs in cases like Padilla and Chaidez because they are, at their collective core, criminal matters. I think this is, in part, what led the Padilla court to describe as “ill-suited” to the Strickland analysis the dichotomy between collateral v. direct consequences of a conviction — a point that Sotomayor seized on in her dissent where she took the majority to task for its over-reliance on and over-emphasis of this distinction.
As to my hypothesis as to why Kagan ended up writing the Chaidez opinion, I think that the debate between say, Roberts and Alito, on the one hand, and Breyer and Kennedy, on the other, centered not on whether Padilla could be applied retroactively — the majority’s opinion makes clear that there was never much doubt there — but on how Padilla and now Chaidez might be used to expand the scope of Strickland to encompass advice on other so-called collateral matters, an outcome which presumably Roberts and Alito, to say nothing of Scalia and Thomas, would have disfavored. At the same time, the more liberal members of the bench, did not want Chaidez written in a way that would have narrowed or weakened the mandate in Padilla (I wonder if Stevens’ presence at the Court — he apparently still maintains an office there — and generally as an observer of the Court, might have had some influence as well). So the task of authorship was given to Kagan who was willing to say no to retroacivity but do so in a way that was respectful of the Padilla decision.
Some of you might have already heard that the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Chaidez v. United States today. The news is not good, especially for those who had hoped the Court would confer to all foreign nationals the benefit of Padilla. Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion which was joined in full by the other Justices with the exception of Thomas who concurred in the judgment only and Sotomayor and Ginsburg both of whom dissented. I will provide some analysis on the decision in a separate post. The opinion can be downloaded here.
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.
Because of Hurricane Sandy, the oral arguments in the Chaidez case, which presents the question of whether Padilla can be applied retroactively, is scheduled to take place tomorrow, having been moved from Tuesday, the day on which they were originally set to take place.
I will post the transcript of the argument and my thoughts on it once I have had a chance to digest the proceedings.
The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have reconvened for yet another term and with Chaidez still pending before the Court, it comes as no surprise that the Court issued hold orders in several other cases concerning the retroactive application of Padilla v. Kentucky. As reported by the SCOTUS blog:
Diaz v. Wyoming, 11-9831, is our pivot between relists and holds, because it is formally a relist (it’s been distributed for both the September 24 and October 5 Conferences) but looks a heck of a lot like a routine hold for Chaidez v. United States, 11-820, the case seeking retroactive application of the holding in Padilla v. Kentucky that the failure to advise clients that pleading guilty to an offense will subject them to deportation constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. (Disclaimer: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys work for or contribute to this blog in various capacities, serves as co-counsel to the petitioner in Chaidez.) It is not immediately apparent to us how Diazdiffers materially from the slew of Chaidez holds discussed below, but something may have caught the Court’s eye. Insert puzzled emoticon.
It goes on further to discuss others cases, in addition to Diaz, which have received hold treatment from the Court in light of Chaidez:
Argument is still nearly a month away and already Chaidez v. United States, 11-820, appears to have yielded five holds: Poblete v. Arizona, 11-1381; Diaz-Palmerin v. United States, 11-1414; Alshaif v. North Carolina,11-10826; Shahly v. Florida, 11-9642; and Gaitan v. New Jersey, 11-10846. Plus, there’sDiaz v. Wyoming, 11-9831, the holdish relist described above. Like Chaidez, all these cases concern the potential retroactivity of Padilla.
Lastly, and this observation may be coming a bit late in the game, but I have been tracking Padilla-related decisions for some time, both because I need to for my own practice and because I want to for the benefit of my fellow practitioners and the public at large. In doing go, I have seen many courts, when faced with the Padilla retroactivity issue, decide not to address it but instead proceed to the merits on the petitioner’s Padilla ineffective assistance claim — especially, if doing so results in the denial of the petition at issue. This is wrong on several levels. It often denies the petitioner an opportunity to fully present his case on collateral review, which is almost always the first and last forum where he can present a claim of ineffective assistance, since the court generally issues its decision on the pleadings rather than on a fully developed factual record as was the case in Chaidez. And it is often contrary to the Supreme Court’s directive that “if the State does argue that the defendant seeks the benefit of a new rule of constitutional law, the court must apply Teague before considering the merits of the claim.” Caspari v. Bohlen, 510 U.S. 383, 389 (1994) (citation omitted). As I noted above, this issue will become moot once the Supreme Court answers the Padilla retroactivity question some time in the next year. But I cannot help but wonder how many otherwise meritorious requests for postconviction relief have been wrongly denied based on a court’s cursory review of the petitioner’s claim, when, what it could have done, was either decide the retroactivity question and only that question or, more preferably, hold off on deciding the petition entirely until the Supreme Court issues its decision in Chaidez.
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.
As several helpful readers have pointed out, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert. today in Chaidez. According to the Court, the question for which cert. was granted in Chaidez is as follows:
In Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), this Court held that criminal defendants receive ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment when their attorneys fail to advise them that pleading guilty to an offense will subject them to deportation. The question presented is whether Padilla applies to persons whose convictions became final before its announcement.
The actual statement from the Court setting forth the above question can be downloaded here. SCOTUS blog has this to say about today’s grant of cert. in Chaidez.
The Supreme Court will determine this Friday whether to grant certiorari in the Chaidez matter, the case in which the Seventh Circuit held that Padilla does not apply retroactively. Presumably there is already a pool memo floating around the Court in which a clerk has made a recommendation as to whether cert. should be granted. The Government has already made up its mind, however, having informed the Court that it agrees with the Petitioner (Chaidez) that cert. should be granted to resolve the Padilla retroactivity issue.
Aside from Chaidez, it will be interesting to see how many cert. petitions now pending before the Court will be “held” by the Court for “GVR” (grant, vacate and remand) treatment in light of its decision in Chaidez — assuming, of course, the Court does grant cert. on Friday. It will also be interesting to see if Justice Kagan will have to recuse herself because, perhaps, she might have represented the Government back when the Padilla case was before the Court (the Government filed an amicus brief in Padilla urging the Court to affirm the Supreme Court of Kentucky; yet another example of the current administration’s cramped and antagonistic view of immigrants’ rights ). Should Justice Kagan have to recuse herself, there is a very real possibility that the Court may deadlock on the retroactivity issue, in which case the Seventh Circuit’s decision would be affirmed. Not a good scenario for immigrants or their counsel. The unlikely savior in such a situation may be the Chief Justice, however. I say this only because the Chief Justice has indicated recently a discomfort with the Court’s rightward trajectory, not to mention the fact that he joined the majority in Vartelas, the Court’s recent decision which, in effect, limited the applicability of the draconian anti-immigrant legislation that is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), 110 Stat. 3009-546.
For those who are interested in reading the cert. materials in Chaidez, they are available here via the SCOTUS blog website.