Justices Consider Ineffective Counsel Case
October 14, 2009
During oral argument in Padilla v. Kentucky, several of the Supreme Court justices appeared at times to struggle with how to handle a criminal defendant's claim of ineffective counsel. The New York Times' Adam Liptak reports that the "justices seemed uncertain about whether they could fashion a legal rule that would address extreme cases without causing turmoil in the criminal justice system." In his case before the high court, Jose Padilla argues that he plead guilty to a felony after his attorney told him that his conviction would not affect his immigration status. Padilla's lawsuit asserts that his counsel's advice was ineffective, thereby violating his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Justice Scalia asked, "What about advice on whether pleading guilty would cause him to lose custody of his children? What if pleading guilty will affect whether he can keep his truck, which is his main source of livelihood?" The Blog of Legal Times reports that Scalia appeared "wary of expanding the definition of ineffective assistance." Transcript of the Padilla argument is available here.