Supreme Court hears argument today on a lawyer’s bad advice

From today’s New York Times:

The Supreme Court is taking up the case of a longtime U.S. resident who is facing deportation to South Korea after pleading guilty to a drug crime based on his lawyer’s bad advice.

The justices are hearing arguments Tuesday in an appeal by Jae Lee, who has lived in the United States for 35 years and has never been back to South Korea since coming to the United States when he was 13.

The case has taken on increased importance because President Donald Trump has promised to step up deportations, with a special focus on immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. The American Bar Association has estimated that one of every 10 criminal defendants is not an American citizen.

Lee agreed to plead guilty to possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute after his lawyer, Larry Fitzgerald, assured him that doing so would not make him subject to deportation. The lawyer was wrong.

The issue in Lee’s appeal is whether the lawyer’s recommendation to take the deal offered by prosecutors was so bad that it amounts to a violation of Lee’s constitutional right to a lawyer.

Both sides agree that Fitzgerald’s performance was deficient in representing Lee. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that immigrants have a constitutional right to be told by their lawyers whether pleading guilty to a crime could lead to their deportation.

But Lee almost must show that the bad lawyering mattered to the outcome of the criminal case.

Full article here.

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