Release Date:  October 26, 2012
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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Oral argument in Chaidez v. United States set for Tuesday, October 30

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument Tuesday in a case involving the retroactive application of an earlier ruling which requires defense attorneys to advise their clients of the deportation consequences of plea bargains. In Chaidez v. United States, a Mexican citizen who is facing deportation because of her 2003 conviction of mail fraud argues that the requirement announced in the court’s 2010 decision in Padilla v. Kentucky should apply to overturn her conviction.

The California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has joined the case to encourage a decision rejecting the defendant’s claim.

In 2003, Roselva Chaidez, a Mexican national living in Northern Illinois, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced by a federal judge to four years probation. The crimes were related to her false claim to an insurance company regarding her alleged injuries in a staged auto accident. She and her accomplices received payments totaling $26,000 in the scam. Under the immigration law, a conviction of fraud makes an alien deportable if the loss to the victim exceeds $10,000.

In 2009, after Chaidez filed an application for citizenship falsely stating that she had never been convicted of a crime, the government initiated deportation proceedings. To avoid deportation, Chaidez petitioned in federal court to overturn her conviction, arguing that the 2010 Padilla ruling applied retroactively to her case. In August 2011, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that claim, noting that Supreme Court precedent prohibits, with narrow exceptions, the retroactive application of new rules of law created by the courts.

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear Chaidez’s appeal this Fall, the Foundation filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, arguing that the court’s 1989 decision in Teague v. Lane (won by CJLF) prohibits the retroactive application of a new rule established by a court decision to a case that became final prior to that holding. The Foundation also argues that Padilla’s extension of ineffective assistance claims to include the immigration consequences of a plea bargain was unquestionably a new rule.

"In the Padilla case, the Supreme Court overturned well-settled law to create a new ground to attack final criminal judgments. While this is arguably a desirable change for the future, it should not overturn decades of judgments properly entered under the law in effect at the time," said Foundation Legal Director Kent Scheidegger. "This is particularly true in a case such as this one, where the defendant has no claim of actual innocence," he added.

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.