On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a lawful permanent resident who received faulty immigration advice from an attorney. Indeed, the Justices, in a 6-2 decision, concluded that it was reasonable to think that a green card holder, named Jae Lee, could have avoided deportation if his attorney had not incorrectly advised him that pleading guilty to a drug charge would not lead to his deportation. The attorney’s injudicious guidance regarding the immigration consequences of criminal charges, referred to as a Strickland claim or simply as “ineffective assistance of counsel,” placed Mr. Lee at risk for deportation. Consequently, the Justices are affording Mr. Lee, a successful business owner who has been lawfully residing in the United States for 35 years, another opportunity to prove the merits of his case in trial with effective assistance.
In an interview about the Supreme Court decision, noted immigration attorney, Edward Shulman, Esq. states “this is a constitutional victory because everyone has the right to effective counsel. The case is likewise a cautionary tale about the import of finding the right immigration attorney who will be able to skillfully and knowledgeably advise clients regarding the potential immigration consequences of criminal charges and sentences.” Mr. Shulman explained how many criminal attorneys are unaware that certain offenses, plea deals, and sentences, place an immigrant at risk for deportation, even if he or she is a valid and long-time green card holder. He further explicated that in some cases, a criminal attorney may focus on minimizing prison time when actually trading more prison time could mean that the client could remain in the United States after incarceration. Shulman states “in my practice, I work closely with criminal attorneys to educate them about the immigration-criminal interplay before they go to trial so that an appropriate strategy is utilized to minimize adverse impact on one’s immigration status in the United States.”