Tag Archives: Postconviction

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.

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.

Taking Padilla One Step Further

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently issued an interesting opinion that may be the opening salvo in another round of Padilla-related litigation, this one on the scope of the Court’s ruling in Padilla.  The case is Commonwealth v. Abraham, decided on December 7, 2012.  The defendant in Abraham, a public school teacher, sought postconviction relief because he claimed his counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him he would forfeit his public employee pension if he pleaded guilty to an offense involving an inappropriate with a former student.  The defendant argued that the near automatic pension forfeiture in his case was no different from the deportation consequences at issue in Padilla, and that he should have received counsel on this issue before he decided to enter his plea.  The threshold question before the court in Abraham, however, and one that I think will be litigated in more and more postconviction relief cases, concerned the viability of the distinction between direct and collateral consequences in the ineffective assistance of counsel context post-Padilla.

This is how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court answered the question:

Not getting money as a consequence of breaching an employment contract cannot be equated with being forced to leave the country. Based on PEPFA’s aim, procedure, and consequences, we cannot conclude forfeiture of an employment benefit is so enmeshed in the criminal process that it cannot be subjected to a direct versus collateral consequences analysis. Accordingly, we hold Padilla did not abrogate application of such analysis in cases that do not involve deportation. Frometa’s general holding remains: a defendant’s lack of knowledge of collateral consequences of the entry of a guilty plea does not undermine the validity of the plea, and counsel is therefore not constitutionally ineffective for failure to advise a defendant of the collateral consequences of a guilty plea. Frometa, at 93.

The Abraham court then went on to conclude that the consequence at issue in the case fell under the category of collateral consequences for which the Constitution did not require legal counsel.  In a notable concurrence, Chief Justice Castille wrote separately to observe that the defendant in the case would not have been entitled to retroactive application of Padilla in any event.  One justice dissented, arguing that Padilla did, indeed, do away with the distinction between collateral and direct consequences, and that the defendant did, in fact, receive ineffective assistance based on his attorney’s failure to advise him on the possibility that his pension would be forfeiting in light of his conviction.

The decision in Commonwealth v. Abraham can be downloaded here.

Some Early Term Padilla-Activity in the Supreme Court And A Thought From Yours Truly

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. Wyoming11-9831, 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 States11-820, 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 States11-820, appears to have yielded five holds:  Poblete v. Arizona11-1381Diaz-Palmerin v. United States11-1414Alshaif v. North Carolina,11-10826Shahly v. Florida11-9642; and Gaitan v. New Jersey11-10846.  Plus, there’sDiaz v. Wyoming11-9831, 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.

Akinsade: Strickland Prejudice Survives District Court Admonishment

A helpful reader has reminded me that fans of Padilla retroactivity may want to know about the recent decision issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Akinsade v. United States, No. 09-7554.  Akinsade involved a Nigerian immigrant who sought coram nobis relief based on the failure of his counsel to correctly advise him on the immigration consequences of a plea to embezzlement.  The lawyer advised Akinsade that he could not be deported based on a plea to this charge, when, in fact, he could have been.  No dispute that this was ineffective assistance.  The controversy, however, had to do with whether the district court cured the prejudice which flowed from the attorney’s misadvice during its plea colloquy with Akinsade.  The Fourth Circuit answered in the negative, and in doing so, granted Akinsade coram nobis relief.

There are a few things to note about the Akinsade decision.  First, in finding that the District Court did not “cure” the prejudice which arose from counsel’s misadvice, the Fourth Circuit was careful to emphasize the different constitutional rights underpinning a guilty plea proceeding and the effective assistance of counsel in a criminal matter.  As the Fourth Circuit put it:

Our decision today does not change the role of or impose any new obligations on the district court in Rule 11 proceedings. A district court’s duty to ensure a knowing and voluntary plea arises from the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process and thus affords defendants a right distinct from the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. While we have recognized the inter-relationship between the two amendments in the context of guilty pleas, see United States v. Smith, 640 F.3d 580, 582 (4th Cir. 2011), we have never suggested that the sufficient protection of one right automatically corrects any constitutional deficiency of the other. Indeed, the Supreme Court has rejected a very similar argument. See Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. ___ (2012) (slip op., at 5) (explaining that the Court in Padilla, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010),rejected the state’s argument that a knowing and voluntary plea supersedes defense counsel’s affirmative misadvice on deportation consequences). As a result, we in no way suggest that in performing its role during the proceeding, a district court needs to be “clairvoyant” or must “guess” about whether a defendant has been misinformed regarding a particular consequence of a plea. When, as here, the claim raised is that of ineffective assistance of counsel, the overall focus must be on the prejudice arising from counsel‘s deficient performance. If a district court’s admonishment so happens to correct the deficient performance then there is no prejudice; however, if there is no correction, then our scrutiny is not directed toward the district court but appropriately to the constitutional offender.

Second, the Fourth Circuit expressly declined to rule on the issue of whether Padilla applied retroactively to the petitioner’s claim since the Government acknowledged that the misadvice provided by counsel was constitutionally deficient.  In essence, this is not so much a Padilla case as it is a Strickland case.  Which lends some support to the notion that Padilla did not create a new rule for retroactivity purposes.

Third, the finding of prejudice by the Fourth Circuit is significant in that the court looked beyond the so-called likelihood of success at trial to the defendant’s desire to contest the Government’s case because of the severity of the consequences which might befall him should he be convicted.  As the Fourth Circuit put it:

Akinsade still must show that the misadvice is a “but for” cause of his entering the guilty plea. Under the prejudice prong of Strickland, “[t]he potential strength of the state’s case must inform our analysis, inasmuch as a reasonable defendant would surely take it into account.” Ostrander v. Green, 46 F.3d 347, 356 (4th Cir. 1995)(citing Hill, 474 U.S. at 59-60overruled on other grounds by O’Dell v. Netherland, 95 F.3d 1214 (4th Cir. 1996) (en banc). Applying this standard, we have held that counsel’s affirmative misadvice on collateral consequences to a guilty plea was prejudicial where the prosecution’s evidence “proved to be more than enough” for a guilty verdict but was “hardly invincible on its face.” Ostrander, 46 F.3d at 356. We have further found prejudice where the defendant, whose counsel misinformed him of deportation consequences, had significant familial ties to the United States and thus would reasonably risk going to trial instead of pleading guilty and facing certain deportation. United States v. Gajendragadkar, No. 97-7267, 1998 WL 352866, at *2 (4th Cir. June 3, 1998). In Gajendragadkar we reasoned that “[a]lthough a trial would present the risk of deportation, it would provide [the defendant] the opportunity to contest the Government’s evidence, or failing that, to challenge the Government’s estimate loss.” Id.

The decision 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.

Split Decisions

Just a quick note that the Third and Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied petitions for rehearing in their respective cases dealing with Padilla retroactivity. It is notable that the denial in the Third Circuit came at the expense of the Government, which lost on appeal in seeking to block retroactive application of Padilla.

The Seventh Circuit is still considering whether to rehear its Padilla retroactivity case (Chaidez) and has asked for a response from the Government on the appellant’s request for rehearing.

Cert. Denied in Morris v. Virginia – UPDATED

Followers of Padilla retroactivity might be disappointed to hear that the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert. today in Morris v. Virginia, the first case to present the question of whether Padilla qualified for retroactive application.  The decision denying cert. can be found on page 15 of the Court’s order list from 10/3/2011.

This ruling should come as no surprise, however.  The Virginia Supreme Court in Morris never really addressed the Padilla retroactivity question head on, if at all, and the issue is still percolating throughout the federal and state courts.

As to the latter, a helpful reader has informed me that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will soon rule on the Padilla retroactivity issue.  The case is United States v. Marisella Carmen-Iglesias (Case No. 11-12316) from the Southern District of Florida.  I will post the briefs and provide updates as they become available.

UPDATE: the “helpful reader” who alerted me to the Carmen-Iglesias case in the Eleventh Circuit was nice enough to send me the appellate briefs.  The Government’s brief can be found here, the appellant’s/defendant’s here.

Not the Last Word

Just a heads up that the losing parties in the three federal appellate court cases that dealt with Padilla retroactivity — Chaidez (7th Cir. — Padilla no retroactive), Chang Hong (7th Cir. — same) and Orocio (3d Cir. — Padilla retroactive) — have all signaled that they will be seeking en banc rehearings.  Also of note is that lawyers from the National Immigrant Justice Center have entered appearances on behalf of defendant in the Chaidez matter.  That will surely be one to watch.

Over in sovereign state territory, the two cases dealing with Padilla retroactivity that are pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court (State v. Frensel Gaitan) and the Florida Supreme Court (State v. Gabriel Hernandez) are just that, still pending.  I will post updates as they become available.