Now that the Supreme Court has decided that Padilla cannot be applied retroactively, the lower courts are, as expected, trying to figure out what set of circumstances merits relief under Padilla — that is, when does a foreign national have a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment because his attorney did not give him the correct or any advice on the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a criminal offense?
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently took up this issue in the case of United States v. Kayode, and, in a 2-1 decision, ruled against the petitioner, a federal prisoner who brought the appeal without the help of an attorney. The majority concluded that while the petitioner might have, in fact, received ineffective assistance of counsel — the petitioner told the court among other things that his attorneys failed to tell him he would be subject to deportation once he pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him by the Government — he did not show that his attorneys’ bad lawyering harmed him in any way. The fact that the petitioner resided in the country for 30-plus years, while relevant to whether the petitioner would have opted for a chance to fight his criminal charges at trial rather than succumb to a plea — his victory at trial would have presumably saved him from deportation — was, by itself, not enough to show he had been harmed by his lawyers’ shoddy work. Instead, the majority focused on what it believed was the strong case the Government had against the petitioner and the petitioner’s failure to rebut any of this with evidence of his own.
If this result seems unjust to you, you are not alone. Judge Dennis dissented from the majority decision, accusing the majority of short-circuiting the petitioner’s case. For one, Judge Dennis wondered, how could the petitioner have given the majority what it wanted when he was housed under lock-and-key for the duration of the appeal and prepared the entire appeal on his own without the help of an attorney? It is also puzzling, although Judge Dennis doesn’t make mention of this in his dissent, that the petitioner won’t be given a do-over, which is really what these kinds of postconviction cases are all about, when he has already demonstrated to the satisfaction of the entire court the grossly incompetent lawyering he received up until he pleaded guilty.
The opinion in United States in Rasheed Kayode, No. 12-20513 (5th Cir. decided Dec. 23, 2014), can be found here.