* Many immigrants say not told guilty pleas risk deportation
* Court weighs applying 2010 decision retroactively
* Thousands of immigrants' futures at stake
By Jonathan Stempel
WASHINGTON, Nov 1 With the future of thousands
of immigrants at stake, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday
considered whether to extend a rule that requires lawyers to
tell clients who are not citizens that they can be deported if
they plead guilty to crimes.
A decision could prove significant to non-citizens who had
ineffective counsel before March 2010, when the court, in
Padilla v. Kentucky, said immigrants deserve to be told at least
some consequences of guilty pleas.
Federal appeals courts have since divided on whether the
decision should apply retroactively.
Thursday's case involved Roselva Chaidez, a Mexican citizen
and lawful permanent U.S. resident in Chicago.
In 2009, while unsuccessfully trying to become a naturalized
citizen, Chaidez disclosed her guilty plea six years earlier for
mail fraud in an automobile insurance scheme.
She challenged the government's decision to remove her from
the country, saying her lawyer in the criminal case had never
told her that she could be deported for pleading guilty.
But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago found
in August 2011 that the Padilla case introduced a new
constitutional rule of law. This would hurt claims such as
Chaidez's because, under a 1989 Supreme Court decision, such new
rules do not apply retroactively.
Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford Law School professor arguing
Chaidez's appeal, told the Supreme Court that Padilla merely
confirmed a longstanding rule that criminal defendants deserved
reasonably effective counsel who could provide advice.
But Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that Fisher's argument
was too sweeping because all decisions draw on earlier law. "We
always cite some preexisting principle," he said.
In contrast, Justice Stephen Breyer suggested that advising
clients about the consequences of their actions is what lawyers
"I would have thought it was common sense that a lawyer
would tell a client that terrible things are going to happen to
you if you plead guilty," he said.
The federal government countered that the Supreme Court
decision in the 2010 Padilla case did announce a new rule.
It noted that four justices in that case found there was no
duty to advise of deportation risk, and that 10 federal appeals
courts had previously found no such duty.
"We might all share an intuition that good lawyers should
advise their clients about the panoply of consequences that they
will experience by pleading guilty," but that had not been the
law, Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben told the justices.
Twenty-eight U.S. states endorsed the U.S. position, fearing
demands by thousands of aliens to withdraw their guilty pleas.
These states said that applying Padilla retroactively would
bottle up courthouses, and often lead to new trials or outright
freedom for admitted criminals.
The decision in Chaidez, expected by the end of June, will
likely affect several immigration cases awaiting Supreme Court
The case is Chaidez v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court,