[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in Padilla v. Kentucky [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Sixth Amendment [text] guarantee of effective assistance of counsel requires a criminal defense lawyer to advise a non-citizen client that pleading guilty to an aggravated felony will trigger mandatory, automatic deportation. The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled [opinion, PDF] that a guilty plea induced by bad advice does not amount to ineffective assistance of counsel and does not warrant setting aside the guilty plea. In reversing the decision below, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:
We granted certiorari to decide whether, as a matter of federal law, Padilla's counsel had an obligation to advise him that the offense to which he was pleading guilty would result in his removal from this country. We agree with Padilla that constitutionally competent counsel would have advised him that his conviction for drug distribution made him subject to automatic deportation. Whether he is entitled to relief depends on whether he has been prejudiced, a matter that we do not address.
Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Clarence Thomas joined.
Honduras native Jose Padilla has been a lawful permanent resident of the US for more than 40 years. He pleaded guilty to transporting a large amount of marijuana, making him subject to deportation proceedings. Padilla claims that he would not have pleaded guilty had his lawyer informed him that he would risk deportation. Padilla shares the same name as convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, currently serving a 17-year sentence, but is of no relation.