“The basic thing is that most judges regard these people [unrepresented litigants] as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge,” he said.”
Read the full, very revealing interview at the above link.
I do hope that Judge P will turn his attention and boundless energy to the way that unrepresented litigants are routinely mistreated, denied due process, and abused in our U.S. immigration Court system. Children forced to present their own asylum claims? He could also shed some needed light on how the DOJ is intentionally attacking and wearing down the NGOs and pro bono attorneys, who are indigent migrants’ sole lifeline to due process, with Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”).
I was interested in how he described the staff attorney system in the 7th Circuit as placing the real adjuducation of appeals in the hands of staff, with Article III Judges all too often merely “signing off” or “rubber stamping” results. Most Circuit Court staff attorney systems were instituted to deal with the overwhelming flow of petitions to review BIA decisions following the so-called “Ashcroft Purge and Reforms” that largely eliminated critical thinking and dialogue at the BIA and turned it into the “Falls Church Service Center.”
The current BIA is largely a staff-driven organization. That the Article III Courts have replicated the same system resulting in the same problems is disturbing, and shows why due process for migrants is being given short shrift throughout our legal system.
The good news: The New Due Process Army knows what’s going on in the system and is positioned to carry the fight to the entrenched status quo, for decades if necessary, until our legal system delivers on the constitutional guarantee of due process for all.
Many thanks to my good friend and colleague Judge Dorothy Harbeck for sending this item my way!
Prepared by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (“CLINIC”) and The Washington College of Law at American University. Here it is:
Here’s the Court’s Headnote (not part of the decision)
Petitioner Jae Lee moved to the United States from South Korea with his parents when he was 13. In the 35 years he has spent in this country, he has never returned to South Korea, nor has he become a U. S. citizen, living instead as a lawful permanent resident. In 2008, federal officials received a tip from a confidential informant that Lee had sold the informant ecstasy and marijuana. After obtaining a warrant, the officials searched Lee’s house, where they found drugs, cash, and a loaded rifle. Lee admitted that the drugs were his, and a grand jury indicted him on one count of possessing ecstasy with in- tent to distribute. Lee retained counsel and entered into plea discussions with the Government. During the plea process, Lee repeatedly asked his attorney whether he would face deportation; his attorney assured him that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty. Based on that assurance, Lee accepted a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Lee had in fact pleaded guilty to an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U. S. C. §1101(a)(43)(B), so he was, contrary to his attorney’s advice, subject to mandatory deportation as a result of that plea. See §1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). When Lee learned of this consequence, he filed a motion to vacate his conviction and sentence, arguing that his attorney had provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. At an evidentiary hearing, both Lee and his plea-stage counsel testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” to Lee in deciding whether to accept a plea, and Lee’s counsel acknowledged that although Lee’s defense to the charge was weak, if he had known Lee would be de- ported upon pleading guilty, he would have advised him to go to trial. A Magistrate Judge recommended that Lee’s plea be set aside and his conviction vacated. The District Court, however, denied relief, and
JAE LEE v. UNITED STATES Syllabus
the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Applying the two-part test for ineffective assistance claims from Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S. 668, the Sixth Circuit concluded that, while the Government conceded that Lee’s counsel had performed deficiently, Lee could not show that he was prejudiced by his attorney’s erroneous advice.
Held: Lee has demonstrated that he was prejudiced by his counsel’s erroneous advice. Pp. 5–13.
(a) When a defendant claims that his counsel’s deficient perfor- mance deprived him of a trial by causing him to accept a plea, the de- fendant can show prejudice by demonstrating a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U. S. 52, 59.
Lee contends that he can make this showing because he never would have accepted a guilty plea had he known the result would be deportation. The Government contends that Lee cannot show prejudice from accepting a plea where his only hope at trial was that something unexpected and unpredictable might occur that would lead to acquittal. Pp. 5–8.
(b) The Government makes two errors in urging the adoption of a per se rule that a defendant with no viable defense cannot show prejudice from the denial of his right to trial. First, it forgets that categorical rules are ill suited to an inquiry that demands a “case-by-case examination” of the “totality of the evidence.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U. S. 362, 391 (internal quotation marks omitted); Strickland, 466 U. S., at 695. More fundamentally, it overlooks that the Hill v. Lockhart inquiry focuses on a defendant’s decisionmaking, which may not turn solely on the likelihood of conviction after trial.
The decision whether to plead guilty also involves assessing the respective consequences of a conviction after trial and by plea. See INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U. S. 289, 322–323. When those consequences are, from the defendant’s perspective, similarly dire, even the smallest chance of success at trial may look attractive. For Lee, deportation after some time in prison was not meaningfully different from deportation after somewhat less time; he says he accordingly would have rejected any plea leading to deportation in favor of throwing a “Hail Mary” at trial. Pointing to Strickland, the Government urges that “[a] defendant has no entitlement to the luck of a lawless deci- sionmaker.” 466 U. S., at 695. That statement, however, was made in the context of discussing the presumption of reliability applied to judicial proceedings, which has no place where, as here, a defendant was deprived of a proceeding altogether. When the inquiry is focused on what an individual defendant would have done, the possibility of even a highly improbable result may be pertinent to the extent it
Cite as: 582 U. S. ____ (2017) 3
would have affected the defendant’s decisionmaking. Pp. 8–10.
(c) Courts should not upset a plea solely because of post hoc assertions from a defendant about how he would have pleaded but for his attorney’s deficiencies. Rather, they should look to contemporaneous evidence to substantiate a defendant’s expressed preferences. In the unusual circumstances of this case, Lee has adequately demonstrated a reasonable probability that he would have rejected the plea had he known that it would lead to mandatory deportation: Both Lee and his attorney testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” to Lee; his responses during his plea colloquy confirmed the importance he placed on deportation; and he had strong connections to the United States, while he had no ties to South Korea.
The Government argues that Lee cannot “convince the court that a decision to reject the plea bargain would have been rational under the circumstances,” Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U. S. 356, 372, since deportation would almost certainly result from a trial. Unlike the Government, this Court cannot say that it would be irrational for someone in Lee’s position to risk additional prison time in exchange for holding on to some chance of avoiding deportation. Pp. 10–13.
825 F. 3d 311, reversed and remanded.
ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined except as to Part I. GORSUCH, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
My favorite quote from the Chief Justice’s opinion:
“There is no reason to doubt the paramount importance Lee placed on avoiding deportation. Deportation is always “a particularly severe penalty,” Padilla, 559 U. S., at 365 (internal quotation marks omitted), and we have “recognized that ‘preserving the client’s right to remain in the United States may be more important to the client than any potential jail sentence,’” id., at 368 (quoting St. Cyr, 533 U. S., at 322; alteration and some internal quotation
12 JAE LEE v. UNITED STATES Opinion of the Court
marks omitted); see also Padilla, 559 U.S., at 364 (“[D]eportation is an integral part—indeed, sometimes the most important part—of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes.” (footnote omitted)). At the time of his plea, Lee had lived in the United States for nearly three decades, had established two businesses in Tennessee, and was the only family member in the United States who could care for his elderly parents—both naturalized American citizens. In contrast to these strong connections to the United States, there is no indication that he had any ties to South Korea; he had never returned there since leaving as a child.”
When is the Court finally going to take the next logical step, ditch the fiction that “deportation from the United States is strictly a civil matter,” and formally recognize that deportation, at least of someone like Lee who has been legally admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence, is indeed punishment, of the severest type imaginable! Indeed, exile as punishment dates back to ancient times?
Also worthy of note, the DOJ and the Solicitor General continue to be spectacularly unsuccessful in convincing a conservative, law enforcement oriented Court of the merits of their extreme “hard-line” positions in immigration-related matters. I have previously predicted that loss of “face” and credibility by the SG before the Supremes is a likely consequence of representing the Trump Administration with Jeff Sessions as your boss. As the President himself is finding out, the hard way, once lost, credibility before the courts is difficult or impossible to regain.
Robert Barnes writes in the Washington Post:
“Everyone agrees that Jae Lee pleaded guilty to a drug charge and now faces deportation to South Korea because of bad lawyering.
The Tennessee restaurateur, who came to the United States as a child in 1982, was told if he took the plea he’d serve a year in prison. But his lawyer Larry Fitzgerald told him there was no chance that a longtime legal permanent resident like him would be deported. Fitzgerald was wrong.
But does Fitzgerald’s mistake make any difference if the evidence against Lee was so strong that he almost certainly would have been convicted had he rejected the deal and gone to trial? As the appeals court that ruled against him noted, he would still be deportable.
The Supreme Court struggled with the issue Tuesday. Does Lee deserve a second chance, because of his lawyer’s mistake, to either seek a plea deal that would not result in his deportation or roll the dice with a jury and hope that somehow he is not convicted?
The answer could be important, as the Trump administration promises a new vigor in deporting immigrants convicted of crimes.”
The Justices appeared to be sympathetic to Mr. Lee. But, that might not be enough to add up to a victory for him.
Manny Vaargas, Senior Counsel at the Immigrant Defense Project writes:
“Mr. Lee is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reopen his criminal case to allow him to withdraw his ill-advised guilty plea. The government’s lawyers agree that Mr. Lee was incorrectly advised. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Mr. Lee has lived in the United States now for 35 years and faces deportation to a country that he has not been in since he was a small child, the government argues that Mr. Lee was not prejudiced by the incorrect advice. The government claims that no one in Mr. Lee’s shoes facing the evidence of guilt he allegedly faced could have rationally chosen to decline to plead guilty and risk a longer prison sentence if convicted after trial.
The government’s position completely ignores how important avoiding deportation can be to individuals like Mr. Lee with deep ties to this country. Indeed, showing just how paramount a concern avoiding deportation was and continues to be for Mr. Lee, he did not submit to deportation after completing his one year prison sentence, and instead has remained in federal custody for a total of seven years while fighting for permission to withdraw his plea. This is significantly longer than the three to five year term that he had been told he risked if his case had gone to trial and he lost. What more compelling evidence can there be of how important avoiding deportation can be to someone like Mr. Lee with deep roots in the United States?
Moreover, the government’s position ignores that there is a real possibility that someone like Mr. Lee, had he declined to plead guilty to the charged offense, might have been able to negotiate a different plea that would not have triggered mandatory deportation. Defense lawyers, aware or advised about relevant immigration law, often are able to work out alternative dispositions that satisfy prosecutors and avoid disproportionate immigration penalties in cases such as his. Or, failing that, Mr. Lee might have exercised his right to a trial and defeated the distribution charge.
The Supreme Court will hear argument in Mr. Lee’s case on Tuesday (March 28). All Mr. Lee asks of the Court is that it reopen his criminal case so that it can be resolved properly and fairly based on correct information regarding the critical immigration implications for him of different possible dispositions of his case. To give due respect to the Constitution’s important right to effective counsel, the Court should grant this modest request given the clearly inadequate counsel Mr. Lee received and the undeniable prejudice he has suffered as a result.”
The case is Lee v. U.S.