Sunday, March 26, 2017

SCOTUSBlog Preview of Lee v. United States: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel


Amy Howe on SCOTUSBlog previews Lee v. United States, an ineffective assistance of counsel case involving an immigrant that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in on March 28.  (We posted Manny Vargas' take on the case a few days ago.).  

Here is the gist of the facts of the case:

"Over 95% of criminal cases in the federal system end in a plea bargain, rather than going to trial. One such case is that of Jae Lee, who in 2009 pleaded guilty to possession of ecstasy with the intent to distribute it. Lee was sentenced to one year and one day in prison – considerably less than the 24 to 30 months suggested by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The real problems began after Lee went to prison. In 1982, at the age of 13, Lee had moved from South Korea to the United States with his parents. They became U.S. citizens, but he did not. Lee’s attorney, Larry Fitzgerald, had told Lee before he entered his plea that he would not be deported: The government wasn’t seeking to deport him as part of the plea bargain, Fitzgerald explained, and because Lee had been in the country so long, the government couldn’t remove him from the country even if it wanted to. Fitzgerald’s advice, it turned out, was dead wrong. Lee learned that deportation was a mandatory penalty for the crime of which he had now been convicted."

Amy Howe concludes her preview as follows: 

"given the ubiquity of plea deals in the criminal justice system and the apparent frequency with which criminal defendants receive bad advice about the immigration consequences of such pleas from their attorneys, this is a case that attorneys and advocates in the field of `crimmigration' will be watching closely."


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