Oct 15, 2009

Jose Padilla Asks the Supremes to Void HIs Guilty Plea

Jose Padilla pleaded guilty in Kentucky to 3 felony drug charges, in exchange for the state agreeing to drop a fourth charge. According to Padilla, his lawyer never told him that his guilty plea would almost surely mean that he will be deported after he serves his sentence.  Padilla has petitioned for the right to set aside his guilty plea and go to trial. His case is now awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Padilla's claim involves the SIxth Amendment right to counsel in criminal cases. The Court has to decide whether defense attorenys are constitutionally deficient if they fail to advise defendants about the likely collateral legal consequences of guilty pleas. If the Supreme Court rules in Padilla's favor, the question of whether Padilla's attorney in fact failed to advise him that he'd probably be deported is a matter that a lower court will have to decide after conducting a hearing. 

Had I been in Padilla's position, I think I would have expected my attorney to know and tell me that if I pleaded guilty I'd probably be deported.  It seems reasonable to expect all defense attorneys to live up to that standard. They're the paid professionals, and they ought to know or be willing to find out about the likely legal consequences of guilty pleas before giving legal advice to clients.