Tag Archives: Chaidez v. United States

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.

 

End of a Chapter

I have written about the issue of Padilla retroactivity for some time and have in some respects made it the focus of this blog.  Since the Supreme Court answered the question in Chaidez v. United States — that Padilla does not apply retroactively — it is no surprise that I have had less to say, or at least, report on the matter.  Courts seem to have really given up on grappling with the issue in the wake of Chaidez even though the decision was a narrow one.

I should mention now that I have been engaged in my own efforts to convince a court to apply Padilla retroactively.  This effort began in earnest in 2011 and ended only recently, in the last month or so.  It was a pro bono effort on behalf of a federal habeas petitioner, which involved a number of very competent attorneys.  I will not bore you with details of the litigation, like when the court sua sponte rejected our appeal following the Chiadez decision, or how disappointed we all were when it came time to throw in the towel — a decision we resisted until the very end.  In today’s spectrum of “undesirables” it seems to me immigrants convicted of crimes fall somewhere between greedy bankers and unrepentant doping athletes.

This doesn’t mean Padilla retroactivity is dead in the water.  Quite the contrary.  As I have previously emphasized, the Court decided Chaidez on very narrow grounds and leaves room for an argument that Padilla should be applied retroactively to cases where an attorney has misadvised a client on immigration consequences, as opposed to ones where no advice was provided at all.  The Chaidez court never addressed the former because it was not asked to do so.  And Chaidez itself was a failure-to-advise case.  Those seeking postconviction relief, either on their own or with the help of an attorney, should make this argument and they should do it early and often.  Chaidez all but invites a future challenge to its scope and it would be irresponsible to turn that invitation away based on the flawed and lazy interpretations that courts have given Chaidez thus far.  It took a little less than three years from its decision in Padilla for the Court to decide Chaidez.  While it’s unlikely that the Court will revisit Chaidez in another three years — a relatively short time period to build the kind of groundswell that is required to successfully petition the Court — I think it likely that the Court will do so sooner or later.

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.

Odds and Ends (Post-Chaidez edition)

  • We have what might be our first guide on how to seek Padilla-based postconviction relief in the wake of Chaidez.  This “advisory” was co-authored by the Immigrant Defense Project and the National Immigration Project and can be downloaded here.  While the advisory is detailed and well-researched, it is still an advisory, and should not be a substitute for independent research and an individualized assessment of the case at issue.  
  •  The Sentencing Law and Policy blog picked up on an interesting law review article entitled Deporting the Pardoned which discusses and criticizes the lack of deference given by immigration laws in the deportation context to individuals who have had their convictions pardoned.  You can download the article here.  
  • The 11th Circuit today released its decision in the case of Chadrick Calvin Cole v. U.S. Attorney General, in which it held that a conviction under South Carolina’s Youthful Offender Act is a conviction for immigration/deportation purposes, even where the law gives the defendant the ability to expunge his conviction at some later date.  You can download the decision here.

Another Cert. Worthy Candidate to Expand the Reach of Padilla? (UPDATED)

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.

Some Thoughts on the Chaidez Decision

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Decides Chaidez; Padilla Not Retroactive

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.

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.

The Race Begins… Cert. Granted in Chaidez

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.