Tag Archives: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Padilla in 2012 Thus Far

I apologize for the lack of Padilla related posts since the New Year.  There simply wasn’t much to report, perhaps due to the holidays.  This has changed some of late, and courts have been issuing opinions discussing both Padilla retroactivity and Padilla ineffectiveness.  As to the former, however, district courts seem to realize that the question of whether Padilla applies retroactively is one that, sooner or later, will be decided by the Supreme Court.  And they have acted accordingly, either skirting the issue entirely or ruling on it but with little analysis.  As to the latter question of what constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel under Padilla, the fight has mostly been over when a postconviction litigant establishes that he or she has been prejudiced by counsel’s unconstitutional performance — that is, given that counsel was ineffective, would it have been rational for a defense to opt for trial had he or she been given the advice that Padilla required, i.e., that your conviction will result in adverse immigration consequences and this is why.  In this respect, courts have been been split as to whether the decision to go to trial should be based on one’s likelihood of success in prevailing at trial, i.e., lack of evidence of inculpatory evidence and the availability of viable defenses, or on one’s determination to “fight to the death” so he or she could avoid potential deportation that would certainly come with a criminal conviction. The Third Circuit adopted the latter test for Padilla prejudice in its landmark decision in Orocio.

Without further ado, I offer here, cites to a few recent decisions which consider the above issue with varying outcomes:

Pilla v. United States, No. 10-4178 (6th Cir. Feb. 6, 2012) (defendant failed to establish prejudice under Padilla because of “overwhelming evidence of her guilt”).

McNeill v. United States, No. A-11-CA-495 SS, (W.D. Tex.  Feb. 2, 2012) (finding Padilla retroactive but denying relief because counsel was not ineffective and even if he were petitioner failed to establish prejudice)

United States v. Fajardo, No. 10-CV-1978, (M.D. Fla. Jan. 26, 2012) (finding Padilla not retroactively applicable after detailed Teague v. Lane analysis)

Yau v. United States, 11 C 8462 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 26, 2012) (granting 2255 petitioner an evidentiary hearing on Padilla claim after finding a sufficient threshold showing of prejudice where it would have been “rational under the circumstances for [the petitioner] to reject the plea agreement and go to trial had he known of the immigration consequences“) (emphasis added).

The decision in the cases cited above should be available on Google Scholar.  If not, please feel free to email me and I will send you the decision.

 

 

Seventh and Tenth Circuits Rule on Padilla Retroactivity

I apologize again for the delay in posting.  Things have been hectic around here, both work-wise and life-wise.  For those of you who follow developments with Padilla retroactivity, this is probably old news.  But the Seventh and Tenth Circuits have recently issued opinions holding that Padilla cannot be applied retroactively.  Notably, the Seventh Circuit reversed Judge Gotschall’s groundbreaking decision in Chaidez which has been covered extensively in this blog.  (See posts here and here.)  The case from the Tenth Circuit is United States v. Chang Hong (Case No. 10-6294) and was an appeal from a denial of a 2255 habeas petition.  Of note in Hong is that the petitioner there argued that Padilla is a new rule so he could extend the statute of limitations for his habeas claim; his petition was otherwise untimely.

I will have more to say about both decisions soon.  Meanwhile, the opinion in Chaidez (including a persuasive dissent) is here, the one in Hong, here.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how these rulings will affect the application for writ of certiorari in Morris (post here) that is currently pending in the Supreme Court on Padilla retroactivity.  Will anyone of the losing parties in Chaidez and Hong also appeal to the Supreme Court?  If so, which case presents the more ideal vehicle for (a) getting cert granted and (b) reversing the appellate decision on Padilla retroactivity?

Padilla Retroactivity in SCOTUS?

A few months ago, I wrote about the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Morris, limiting the procedural vehicles from which a defendant could launch a postconviction challenge under Padilla.  This decision generated some controversy after lower court judges refused to abide by the Morris court’s ruling and continued to entertain Padilla claims raised in the rather esoteric motions that were at issue in Morris.

Thanks to the SCOTUS blog, we have learned that Morris has appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The questions presented are as follows:

(1) Whether Padilla v. Kentucky applies retroactively to ineffective assistance of counsel claims raised on collateral review; and

(2) whether Virginia provides adequate postconviction remedies when petitioner and others similarly situated are precluded from vindicating violations of the right to effective assistance of counsel under Padilla.

Morris (the petitioner) is being represented by the law firm, Duane Morris.  The petition can be accessed here.  I will post Virginia’s response as it becomes available.

Additional Thoughts on Orocio

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals might be the first federal appellate court to rule on Padilla retroactivity but it certainly won’t be the last.  Indeed, as of this writing, the Government has sought a re-hearing, en banc, in Orocio, a request that will likely be granted, considering the import of the issues.  Here are some of my thoughts/observations on the case:

(1) The facts in Orocio were almost identical to those in Padilla (longtime lawful permanent resident; relatively minor drug charge) which apparently helped in persuading the Third Circuit to rule in Orocio’s favor.

(2) The postconviction vehicle of choice was a petition for a writ of error coram nobis; here, the defendant would have been out of time were he to file a 2255 habeas petition.  The court didn’t address any procedural issues related to this since the lower court had not done so.

(3) In deciding that Padilla announced an “old rule” and could therefore be applied retroactively, the Third Court looked simply to Strickland’s threshold standard of reasonableness, which, the Supreme Court has ruled, applies in the plea context.  According to the Third Circuit then “[f]ar from extending the Strickland rule into uncharted, Padilla reaffirmed defense counsel’s obligations to the criminal defendant during the plea process, a critical stage in the proceedings.”  And just because the Strickland standard is successfully applied to a new factual circumstance does not necessarily mean that it creates a “new rule” for retroactivity purposes — this is especially the case when the claim involves a “rule of general applicability” which was the product of the Strickland case.

(4) The Third Circuit overruled prior precent in finding that the petitioner made out a prima facie case for Strickland prejudice.  Thus, defendant’s no longer have to show so-called factual innocence; instead,  a defendant need only show that it would have been rational for him to reject the plea and proceed to trial, which appears to be a less onerous standard.  Under the reasoning of the Orocio court, in cases where deportation is a potential consequence of one’s plea-based conviction, it is almost always rational for a defendant to reject a plea and proceed to trial.  But that’s just my reading of the decision.

I post here the Third Circuit’s official opinion in Orocio.  The Government’s brief is here, the Appellant’s, here.  The Appellant’s reply brief is here.

April Showers Bring May Flowers*

[*I have been informed by my ever helpful wife that we are in June; I will neither admit nor deny whether I knew this at the time I thought of this title but point out that the decisions at issue in this blog post were issued in May!]

The once prevailing wind of hostility by federal judges toward Padilla retroactivity claims has now begun to blow the other way.  Two federal district courts recently held that Padilla did not announce a “new rule” for retroactivity purposes, i.e., Padilla could be applied retroactively, and granted, yes granted, the petitioners in those cases postconviction relief.

The cases are United States v. Krboyan, decided in the Eastern District of California, and Amer v. United States, a Northern District of Mississippi matter.  It is notable that each case involved different procedural vehicles for seeking postconviction relief; in Krboyan, it was a petition for writ of error coram nobis, in Amer, a section 2255 habeas petition [although the court, in a move of great significance, sua sponte converted this into a petition for writ of error coram nobis thereby obviating the need for the petitioner to argue that his otherwise untimely 2255 petition fell within section 2255(f)(3)’s “new rule” exception, otherwise know as the death knell for Padilla retroactivity.  Also notable is the fact that the holdings originated in two pretty different circuits, in terms of the general ideological sweep of decisions which affect criminal procedure and immigration: Ninth Circuit versus Fifth Circuit.

The Krboyan case can be downloaded here, Amer, here.

In other Padilla retroactivity news, the Supreme Court of New Jersey recently accepted a case with potentially profound impact on Padilla retroactivity law.  The case is State v. Frensel Gaitan, which was previously covered in this blog here.  The question to be answered, according to the New Jersey Supreme Court website, is as follows:

Do the decisions in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 1473, 176 L. Ed. 2d 284 (2010) and State v. Nunez-Valdez, 200 N.J. 129 (2009) apply to this non-citizen defendant’s argument, raised for the first time in his post-conviction relief petition, that his attorney failed to discuss with him the deportation consequences of his guilty plea?

If anyone has access to the briefs in the Gaitan case [as they become available] and would be willing to share them with other readers, please let me know.

Laguna: Padilla is a “New Rule,” Not Retroactive

The Northern District of Illinois still remains a hotbed of Padilla retroactivity decisionmaking.  This time, the court, as per Judge Virginia Kendall, came out against Padilla retroactivity.  So it’s currently 2-1 at the Northern District of Illinois, in favor of Padilla non-retroactivity, if you’re keeping score.

In United States v. Laguna, the petitioner, in an unusual procedural maneuver, collaterally challenged his order of removal under Padilla v. Kentucky rather than attacking the convictions that gave rise to the order itself.  (He most likely ran out of time on the latter approach; the convictions at issue arose in 2001 and the removal order was entered against him in 2002.)  The court noted at the outset that there was no dispute that the petitioner was not advised of immigration consequences prior to his pleading guilty to the 2001 offenses.  Nevertheless, the court went on to reject the petitioner’s Padilla-based challenge on several grounds, including the non-retroactivity of Padilla.  The Laguna court went through a relatively thorough analysis before finding that Padilla constituted a “new rule” under Teague and was therefore not retroactively applicable.  The highlights of the court’s retroactivity findings are as follows:

(1) Prior to Padilla, Seventh Circuit law did NOT mandate that an attorney advise a client of immigration consequences in order to render effective assistance under the Sixth Amendment.

(2) Pre-Padilla directives contained in bar rules and professional guidelines requiring advice on immigration consequences are not considered legal rules for purposes of the new rule/old rule retroactivity analysis.

(3) Even when Padilla was decided, the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, lacked unanimity as to whether the Sixth Amendment required advice as to immigration consequences, thus establishing that Padilla is a new rule.

(4) Padilla did not involve the application of an old rule to a new set of facts but instead required the resolution of the threshold issue of whether the Sixth Amendment applied at all in situations concerning immigration consequences.

It is worth noting that the court’s Padilla retroactivity analysis is still dicta since it it had already rejected the petitioner’s claim on procedural grounds before reaching the issue of Padilla retroactivity.  In fact, this retroactivity discussion could be considered double dicta since the court had already decided that one, the the petitioner’s collateral challenge was procedurally barred, and two, that the petitioner would not have been able to prove Strickland prejudice pursuant to Padilla.  [The correctness of the court’s Strickland prejudice analysis is questionable: contrary to the court’s ruling, the issue of Strickland prejudice in the plea context is not whether the defendant would not have been convicted at trial had the defendant received effective assistance of counsel but instead whether he would have proceeded to trial rather than pleading guilty based on the attorney misconduct at issue.  See Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).  It’s a fine point and probably one that would not matter in most cases of ineffective assistance, but is still worth mentioning, especially since the issue for most immigrant defendants facing imminent deportation is not actually contesting guilt in a full-blown trial but securing a favorable plea deal that would avoid adverse immigration consequences – a fact emphasized by the Padilla majority, Padilla, 130 S. Ct. at 1486.]   A final note: the petitioner in this case had to shoulder what were some pretty unsympathetic facts (for example, he impeded the government’s efforts to remove him from the country after agreeing initially to voluntary departure), which, in all likelihood, contributed to the court’s decision against him.

The decision in United States v. Laguna can be downloaded here.

Does Padilla Have Due Process Implications?

In my last post, I touched upon what I believed was the erroneous rejection of Padilla ineffective assistance claims by courts based on a defendant’s failure to raise the immigration consequence issue during his plea colloquy.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has provided additional clarification on this point in a recent decision, much to the benefit, I think, of potential Padilla claimants.  The case is Delgado-Ramos v. United States (per curium).  In Delgado-Ramos, the defendant appealed his conviction for attempted entry after deportation, arguing that his plea was invalid because the court never informed him of the immigration consequences of his conviction, in contravention of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Recognizing that such a failure did not constitute a basis for withdrawal of a plea under Ninth Circuit law — immigration consequences are considered a collateral consequence of a conviction and therefore have no due process implications, the animating concern of Rule 11 — the defendant nevertheless argued for reversal, claiming that the decision in Padilla effectively overturned Ninth Circuit law in the immigration/collateral consequence context.  The court rejected this argument, stating as follows:

[5] Because the defendant in Padilla raised only a Sixth Amendment claim, the Court had no occasion to consider the scope of a district court’s obligation under Rule 11, whether a defendant’s due process rights are violated if the court fails to inform him of the immigration consequences of his plea, or the continued viability of the distinction between direct and collateral consequences in the due process context (which traces back to Brady’s statement that a plea is voluntary so long as a defendant is informed of the direct consequences of the plea). Rather, the Court indicated only that where the immigration consequences of a plea are clear, an attorney’s failure to provide such information falls below professional norms, see id. at 1486, and therefore failure to advise a defendant of the immigration consequences of a plea can constitute a Sixth Amendment violation under some circumstances, see id. at 1486-87. While Padilla’s holding is directly applicable to our Sixth Amendment analysis in Fry, it sheds no light on the obligations a district court may have under Rule 11 and due process. Accordingly, we cannot say that Padilla “undercut[s] the theory or reasoning underlying” our decision in Amador-Leal “in such a way that the cases are clearly irreconcilable.” See Miller, 335 F.3d at 900. Because Amador-Leal remains the law of the circuit, the district court did not err in failing to advise Delgado of the immigration consequences of his plea. See Recio, 371 F.3d at 1100. Furthermore, because Delgado does not assert on appeal that he would not have entered the plea “but for the [district court’s alleged] error,” he has not demonstrated the “probability of a different result” and thus cannot show that the district court’s action affected his “substantial rights.” Dominguez Benitez, 542 U.S. at 83.

It’s an open question whether this principle will remain good law in light of the increasingly inseparable and perhaps incestuous relationship immigration law has developed with its criminal counterpart.  At present, however, it is.  And a good argument can and should be made that courts have no business looking at what a defendant said or did not say during his plea colloquy in assessing the merits of a Padilla ineffective assistance claim.

The decision in Delgado-Ramos can be downloaded here.