You are here

Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (U.S. Sup. Ct.)

On June 2, 2009, CAC filed a brief in the Supreme Court case of Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky in support of robust due process protections for immigrant criminal defendants.

Padilla raised the question of whether the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel includes advice regarding likely deportation as a result of a criminal conviction. The petitioner, Jose Padilla, had been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for almost 50 years. He served in the armed forces in the Vietnam War and built a life in the United States. Accordingly, when he ran into trouble with the law and was considering pleading guilty to a five-year jail term for a non-violent drug offense, he was particularly concerned with his immigration status. His lawyer told him that he did not need to worry about being deported because he had been in the country for so long. This advice was flat wrong—in fact, Mr. Padilla faced automatic deportation as a result of his guilty plea. Mr. Padilla has argued to the Supreme Court that he would never have pleaded guilty had he known the true immigration consequences of his plea—opting instead to take his chances at trial or attempt to negotiate a better plea bargain—and that his lawyer’s blatantly incorrect advice falls below the constitutional minimum required for effective assistance of counsel.

CAC’s brief supports Mr. Padilla by laying out the text and detailed history of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which applied the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of assistance of counsel to the States. Our brief shows that the framers of the Due Process Clause were particularly concerned that non-citizens get a fair shake in state criminal courts and argues that what happened to Mr. Padilla cannot possibly fit within this constitutional vision.

On March 31, 2010, in a resounding victory for the Constitution, the Supreme Court ruled as CAC had urged, and held that the lawyer for an alien charged with a crime has a constitutional obligation to tell the client that a guilty plea carries a risk that he will be deported.

Download the brief here