by Michelle Holland, Editor-in-Chief
The Supreme Court has taken on many groundbreaking cases this term, daring to clarify issues regarding same-sex marriage, immigrant rights, and habeas corpus petitions. Of particular interest is the case Chaidez v. United States. This case deals with non-citizen rights following a criminal conviction or guilty plea. This is of particular importance because once non-citizens are convicted or plead guilty to a crime, they can be deported. In 2003, Chaidez plead guilty to mail fraud and was subsequently deported. In 2010, she filed a motion for a writ of coram nobis, asserting that her attorney was ineffective for not alerting her that she would be deported if she plead guilty.
While her motion was being considered, the court held in Padilla v. Kentucky that council must inform his or her client that a guilty plea can lead to deportation in order to provide effective council. The district court in turn vacated Chaidez’s conviction holding that Padilla interpreted the rule of an earlier case. The appellate later court reversed the district court’s ruling and reinstated her conviction, holding that Padilla was a new rule that could not be applied retroactively.
The Supreme Court’s decision to address the rights of non-citizens residing in the United States is extremely important. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that approximately 19.7 million non-citizens are living legally in the United States. This figure includes non-citizens that have been granted asylum from violence and torture in their home countries. This decision will determine whether the law will force council to give their client the information necessary to truly make an informed decision about their future and will provide non-citizens with the option to weigh the pros and cons of a plea bargain, knowing they could be deported for it. If the Supreme Court decides to interpret Padilla as an application of a prior rule, it will apply to cases like Chaidez where a non-citizen was not fully aware of her rights and made a decision that sent her back to the country she escaped years ago. The Supreme Court is obligated to fully pursue justice. This term we will learn whether the Supreme Court fulfills that obligation by holding that non-citizens have the right to effective council and the right to know the consequences of their decisions.
 Lisa Schmidt, Supreme Court 2012-2013 Term Preview, Legal Information Institute, http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/preview_2012-13 (last visited Feb. 6, 2013).
 See Chaidez v. United States, 655 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 2011), cert. granted, 80 U.S.L.W. 3429 (U.S. Apr. 30, 2012) (No. 11-820).
 Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics, Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2011, http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_lpr_pe_2011.pdf.
 Ethan Roman & Dan Youngblut, Chaidez v. United States, Legal Information Institute, http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/11-820.