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Immigration Law

Supreme Court Oral Argument Preview: Lee v. U.S. (Tues., Mar. 28, 2017)

Manny Vargas, Mar. 24, 2017 - "Mr. Lee repeatedly asked his lawyer about the risk of deportation if he agreed to plead guilty. Again and again, the lawyer reassured Mr. Lee that he would not be deported given, as the lawyer put it, Mr. Lee’s “30 plus years of living in the U.S. and strong ties, in combination with a lack of prior criminal history and the small amount of drugs involved.” So, based on his lawyer’s advice, Mr. Lee agreed to plead. Unfortunately, the lawyer’s advice was dead wrong."

Amy Howe, Mar. 25, 2017 - "Over 95% of criminal cases in the federal system end in a plea bargain, rather than going to trial. One such case is that of Jae Lee, who in 2009 pleaded guilty to possession of ecstasy with the intent to distribute it. Lee was sentenced to one year and one day in prison – considerably less than the 24 to 30 months suggested by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The real problems began after Lee went to prison. In 1982, at the age of 13, Lee had moved from South Korea to the United States with his parents. They became U.S. citizens, but he did not. Lee’s attorney, Larry Fitzgerald, had told Lee before he entered his plea that he would not be deported: The government wasn’t seeking to deport him as part of the plea bargain, Fitzgerald explained, and because Lee had been in the country so long, the government couldn’t remove him from the country even if it wanted to. Fitzgerald’s advice, it turned out, was dead wrong. Lee learned that deportation was a mandatory penalty for the crime of which he had now been convicted. Lee filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief on the ground that Fitzgerald had not provided him with the effective assistance of an attorney guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Fitzgerald indicated that, if he had known that Lee’s plea would result in mandatory deportation, he would have advised him to go to trial. But Fitzgerald also acknowledged that this was “a bad case to try” and that Lee likely would have received an even longer sentence after a jury trial. Both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit turned Lee down."

SCOTUSblog case file, with links to the briefs.