The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday in Chaidez v. United States [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that its holding in Padilla v. Kentucky [JURIST report] does not apply retroactively. In Padilla, the court held [opinion, PDF] that immigration attorneys are required to inform their clients about some of the deportation consequences of guilty pleas under the Sixth Amendment [text] of the Constitution. In Justice Elena Kagan's opinion in Chaidez, the court found that this did not apply to cases that were already final on appeal. This means immigrants who wish to appeal their cases to retract guilty pleas may not argue ineffective counsel if their case became final before Padilla was decided in 2010. This is because the question was previously unaddressed or even entirely different in many jurisdictions. Kagan wrote, "When we decided Padilla, we answered a question about the Sixth Amendment's reach that we had left open, in a way that altered the law of most jurisdictions." Supporters of the decision argue this avoids an overflow of appeals of immigration rulings.
The petitioner in Chaidez was indicted in 2003 on three counts of mail fraud and pleaded guilty on the advice of counsel. The government initiated removal proceedings in 2009, and Chaidez appealed, claiming she would not have pleaded guilty if she had been aware that such a plea could result in deportation. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the case last April. The case was then heard [JURIST report] in November. Padilla was decided in March 2010 while Chaidez's motion was pending with the district court.