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“New Law” Does Not Apply to Convictions That Became Final Before Padilla Decision Announced

Feb 21, 2013 | federal court, new law, Padilla v. Kentucky cases, Supreme Court Litigation

On February 20, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Chaidez v. United States (11-820), in which it declined to retroactively apply its holding in Padilla v. Kentucky, which the Supreme Court decided on March 31, 2010.  In Padilla, the Supreme Court announced that criminal defense lawyers are required to tell non-citizen clients that they can be deported if they plead guilty to certain crimes.

Based on Padilla, thousands of immigrants across the United States, including Chaidez, asked criminal courts in which they pleaded guilty to vacate and throw out the convictions that rendered them deportable.  Chaidez, a Mexican citizen, was ordered removed by the U.S. government in 2009 in light of her guilty plea six years earlier for mail fraud in an automobile insurance scheme.  She argued that pursuant to Padilla, her removal was unjust because her criminal defense lawyer never advised her about the possible immigration consequences of her guilty plea.

The question presented in Chaidez was whether Padilla applies to persons whose convictions became final before its announcement on March 31, 2010.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Padilla was “new law” and therefore not legally “retroactive.”  Therefore, the “new law” established by Padilla does not apply to defendants, like Chaidez, whose criminal convictions became final before the ruling in Padilla came down.

Thus, pursuant to the decision in Chaidez, immigrants convicted of certain crimes before 2010 cannot appeal their cases if their criminal defense lawyer did not properly warn them of the risk of deportation from the guilty plea.

Two Supreme Court justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented.

Click here to read the entire decision in Chaidez v. United States.

Ruchi Thaker