Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Civil Litigation Clinic secured an important victory with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, reversing a lower court decision and reviving a Cuban immigrant’s claim to vacate his sentence.
In Rodriguez-Penton v. United States, the Sixth Circuit (in a split decision) joined other circuits in holding that immigrants may prevail on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The court further acknowledged, following Supreme Court precedent, that the criminal justice system today is a system of pleas, not of trials. Accordingly, in order to prevail, an immigrant no longer needs to insist that “but for” the ineffective advice of his counsel he would have gone to trial; rather, it is enough to show that he was prejudiced by insisting that he would have obtained a better plea deal but-for the ineffective advice. Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit reversed a lower court decision denying Mr. Rodriguez-Penton’s motion to vacate.
The decision is an important milestone for “crimigration,” (criminal-immigrtaton) a new legal field created following the Supreme Court’s seminal Padilla v. Kentucky (2010), where the Court held that non-citizen clients have a constitutional right to be advised by their attorneys about the adverse immigration risks resulting from admission in their criminal proceedings.
Over the years, many Civil-Litigation Clinic students have contributed to the proceedings, and were critical in securing this important results. Ms. Ashley Fuchs, Ms. Shannon Lear, Ms. Danielle Limon, Mr. Brandon Morgan, and Mr. John Reulbach have assisted in the preparation of several briefs – and supplemental briefs – for the court.
Mr. Derek Smith and Mr. Jeffrey Geisinger assisted in the preparation of Oral Argument. Mr. Smith also travelled to Cincinnati to prepare for, and then attended, the oral argument.
Professors Witmer-Rich, Mead, and Ray (all former federal court-of-appeals clerks), as well as Professor Kowalski, assisted in preparation for oral argument.
Professor Doron Kalir supervised the clinical work, served as the Attorney of Record, and argued the case before the Sixth Circuit. Following the decision, Professor Kalir interviewed to Law.360.