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US Supreme Court ruling affects many immigrant convicts in South Florida

By DAVID OVALLE  The Miami Herald

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday shuts the door on appeals for hundreds of Floridians convicted in the past of crimes for which they could be deported.

The high court, in Chaidez v. United States, ruled that immigrants convicted of certain crimes before 2010 cannot appeal their cases if their criminal defense lawyer did not properly warn them of deportation.

Wednesday’s decision followed up on the court’s 2010 ruling throwing out the conviction of military veteran Jose Padilla, whose lawyer failed to warn him he faced deportation to his native Honduras when pleading guilty to marijuana smuggling in Kentucky.

After the ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky, thousands of convicted immigrants — fearing deportation, or some ordered deported — asked lower courts across the country to throw out their convictions. That included Roselva Chaidez, a longtime U.S. resident from Mexico convicted in Chicago of auto insurance fraud.

But seven of nine justices said Wednesday that the Padilla ruling established “new law” and was not legally “retroactive.” Under federal law, non-citizens convicted of an “aggravated felony” can be deported.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office had also argued that applying Padilla retroactively “would be overwhelming to the administration of justice” — flooding the courts with thousands of cases, most of them so old that witnesses or evidence in the cases have disappeared.

South Florida defense attorneys greeted Wednesday’s ruling with dismay.

“There will be an increase in voluntary departures, only the ‘voluntariness’ will be based on the fact that there is no recourse if the person’s case pre-dated Padilla … an increase in orders of deportations and in increase in money spent to supervise people who cannot be deported to countries such as Cuba,” said defense attorney Maggie Arias, who along with Benji Waxman argued the issue before Miami’s appeals court.

“They’ve cut the legs out of anyone who would have recourse in criminal court based on bad advice — or no advice — from a criminal defense lawyer.”

Two Supreme Court justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented.

The issue of “retroactivity” had been particularly vexing in immigrant-rich South Florida, and several Miami cases had made their way through the appellate courts.

One such case: Gabriel Hernandez, who arrived in the United States from Nicaragua when he was 2 years old. Now 30 and a legal resident, he boasts a bachelor’s degree and works as a successful computer network administrator for a Miami bank group.

His one blemish occurred when he was 19 years old. He was arrested on charges of selling LSD.

In an outcome typical for first-time offenders, Hernandez pleaded guilty and accepted a year of probation in return for a promise that no felony conviction would appear on his record. But Hernandez insists he never understood that the plea deal could wind up getting him deported to Nicaragua.

Miami’s Third District Court of Appeals denied Hernandez’s bid to throw out the conviction based on the Padilla case. The Florida Supreme Court, in November, upheld the ruling.

Hernandez’s lawyer, Michael Vastine, was chagrined by Wednesday’s court decision.

“From here on out, Florida immigration judges are going to be deporting people for crimes that are constitutionally suspect,” Vastine said. “I find that a little bit galling.”

High court ruling on deportation issue does not apply to past cases, Florida Supreme Court says

By DAVID OVALLE      The Miami Herald

            A Miami man who could face deportation for an 11-year-old drug charge is not eligible to have his conviction thrown out, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Gabriel Hernandez, now a successful bank administrator, had asked a Miami trial court to toss out his 2001 drug conviction, saying his lawyer failed to properly warn him he could face deportation to his native Nicaragua.

Like hundreds of defendants statewide, Hernandez filed his request after the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2010 threw out the conviction for a Kentucky man, Jose Padilla, whose lawyer failed to warn him that he would be deported after pleading guilty.

But a Miami judge refused Hernandez’s request. And The Third District Court of Appeal ruled that the Padilla case did not apply to past cases like Hernandez’s.

On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court agreed unanimously that the Padilla case is not “retroactive.” The state high court did rule that current and future Florida defendants have the right to claim their lawyers were “ineffective” for not properly advising them of possible deportation.

The issue of “retroactivity” has been closely watched in legal circles as thousands of people across the country — who could face deportation because of past convictions — sought help under the Padilla case.

Wednesday’s decision in Florida is not the final say for Hernandez.

Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether its own decision in Padilla applies retroactively.

Last month, the nation’s high court heard arguments for a Chicago woman, Roselva Chaidez, who is facing deportation for 9-year-old conviction for fraud. No ruling has been issued.

Hernandez arrived in the United States from Nicaragua when he was 2 years old. Now 30 and a legal resident, he boasts a bachelor’s degree and works as a successful computer network administrator for a Miami bank group.

His one blemish was at 19, when he was arrested on charges of selling LSD.

In an outcome typical for first-time offenders, Hernandez pleaded guilty and accepted a year of probation in return for a promise that no felony conviction would appear on his record. But Hernandez insists he never understood that the plea deal could wind up getting him deported to Nicaragua.

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday also ruled on the same issue in a companion case for Miami’s Leduan Diaz. His lawyer, Maggie Arias, said she is “hopeful” that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule differently than the state high court and find Padilla to apply to all cases.

“This would ensure that fairness and general due process are afforded to people who received ineffective advice from lawyers,” Arias said.

Spanish
Supremo de la Florida no desestima viejos casos de deportación
dovalle@MiamiHerald.com (DAVID OVALLE) El Nuevo Herald

Un hombre de Miami que podría enfrentar deportación por una acusación de tráfico de drogas de hace 11 años no es elegible para que se le desestime, dictaminó el miércoles el Tribunal Supremo de la Florida.

Gabriel Hernández, quien es ahora un próspero administrador de informática en un banco, había pedido a un tribunal de Miami que desestimara su declaración de culpabilidad de tráfico de drogas en el 2001, diciendo que su abogado no le había advertido debidamente que eso podría causar su deportación a su nativa Nicaragua.

Lo mismo que cientos de acusados en el estado, Hernández presentó su solicitud después de que el Tribunal Supremo federal desestimara la declaración de culpabilidad de un hombre de Kentucky, José Padilla, en marzo del 2010, ya que su abogado no le había avisado de que él podría ser deportado tras declararse culpable.

Pero un juez de Miami denegó la petición de Hernández. Y el Tercer Tribunal de Apelaciones de Distrito dictaminó que el caso de Padilla no se aplica a casos anteriores como el de Hernández.

El miércoles, el Tribunal Supremo de la Florida acordó unánimemente que el caso de Padilla no es “retroactivo”. El tribunal había dictaminado que acusados actuales y futuros de la Florida tienen el derecho de alegar que sus abogados fueron “ineficaces” por no avisarles debidamente de la posibilidad de deportación.

El tema de la “retroactividad” ha sido seguido de cerca en círculos legales, mientras miles de personas de todo el país — quienes podrían enfrentar la deportación a causa de declaraciones de culpabilidad anteriores — buscaban amparo bajo el caso de Padilla.

La decisión del miércoles en la Florida no es la final para Hernández.

En última instancia, el Tribunal Supremo de EEUU decidirá si su propio dictamen sobre Padilla puede aplicarse retroactivamente.

El mes pasado, el Supremo de la nación escuchó argumentos a favor y en contra de una mujer de Chicago, Roselva Chaidez, quien enfrenta deportación por una declaración de culpabilidad por fraude de 9 años atrás. No se ha hecho dictamen alguno hasta el momento.

Hernández vino a Estados Unidos de Nicaragua cuando tenía 2 años. Ahora de 30 años y residente legal, él tiene un diploma de bachillerato y ha tenido éxito en su carrera como administrador de informática para un grupo bancario de Miami.

Su única mácula ocurrió a los 19 años, cuando fue arrestado por cargos de vender LSD.

De una manera típica para infractores primerizos, Hernández se declaró culpable y aceptó un año de libertad condicional a cambio de la promesa de que no aparecería ningún delito de mayor cuantía en su expediente. Pero Hernández insiste en que él nunca supo que el acuerdo extrajudicial de culpabilidad podría llevarlo a ser deportado a Nicaragua.

El Tribunal Supremo de la Florida dictaminó además el miércoles sobre el mismo problema en el caso adjunto de Leduan Díaz de Miami. Su abogada, Maggie Arias, dijo que ella “tenía la esperanza” de que el Tribunal Supremo federal llegue a un dictamen distinto y concluya que el caso de Padilla se aplica a todos.

“Eso aseguraría que se haga justicia y se facilite el debido proceso judicial a personas que hayan recibido asesoría ineficaz por parte de sus abogados”, dijo Arias, quien lo representó conjuntamente con Benji Waxman.