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SCOTUS: Lawyers have constitutional duty not to give bad advice

Lawyers have a constitutional obligation to inform their clients that a criminal plea could result in deportation, the U.S. Supreme Court held today.

In his opinion in the case Padilla v. Kentucky, Justice John Paul Stevens held that an attorney who told his client not to worry about the consequences of a guilty plea – and  whose client was later subject to a deportation order because of his conviction – gave constitutionally deficient representation.

“It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant – whether a citizen or not – is left to the ‘mercies of incompetent counsel,'” Stevens wrote. “To satisfy this responsibility, we now hold that counsel must inform her client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation.”

The 7-2 ruling was assailed in a dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia, who accused the majority of ignoring the text of the Sixth Amendment in order to achieve the result it wanted.

“Constitution [is] not an all-purpose tool for judicial construction of a perfect world; and when we ignore the text in order to make it that, we often find ourselves swinging a sledge where a tack hammer is needed,” Scalia wrote.

In the other opinion handed down this morning, Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates v. Allstate Insurance, the Court held that a New York state law barring class actions for “penalty” fees cannot prevent a diversity jurisdiction class action claim because the state rule conflicts with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The plurality opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the conflict between state and federal rules must be resolved in favor of the federal rule, which allows such claims.

More on these cases today and in the days to come on Lawyers USA online.

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