BLF fellow Caitlin Barry writes about the impact of Padilla v. Kentucky

BLF’s 2007-2008 postgraduate fellow, Caitlin Barry, writes with an update on the impact of a recent Supreme Court decision on her work at the Philadephia Defender Association and Nationalities Services Center:

On March 31, 2010 the Supreme Court issued its decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, holding that defense counsel are required to provide accurate and competent immigration advice to clients regarding the deportation consequences of pending criminal charges. The Defender Association of Philadelphia had signed on to a brief before the Court in Padilla as amicus curiae, and welcomed this decision.

At the Defender Association, we advise every noncitizen client of the immigration consequences of the pending criminal charges before trial to ensure that each client is able to make an informed decision in her or his case. Our office believes that this advice is an integral part of our ethical duty in representing clients in criminal proceedings. Although we have been providing immigration advice to clients for several years, the decision in Padilla has had a significant impact on our work. We have conducted trainings and provided support to other offices throughout the state of Pennsylvania, and in November 2010 we will be conducting our first statewide training for public defenders on the immigration consequences of Pennsylvania crimes. We have also completed the Guide to Representing Noncitizen Criminal Defendants in Pennsylvania, which is available through the Defending Immigrants Partnership.

In the context of my work as a part-time Staff Attorney at Nationalities Service Center, I continue to represent clients who are facing deportation due to past criminal convictions, and many of my clients have been able to challenge the validity of those convictions because they were never advised of the immigration consequences of their charges. Nationalities Service Center also continues to work with criminal defense counsel in individual cases to ensure that every step is taken to avoid potential deportation consequences.