"The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled for a green card holder who received faulty immigration advice from an attorney, determining he was able to show prejudice against him since it was reasonable to think he could have avoided deportation through plea negotiations or a trial."
In a 6-2 decision, the high court ruled for a green card holder named Jae Lee, a restaurant owner who has been in the U.S. for 35 years, but who faced the prospect of deportation after his attorney incorrectly told him his plea for a drug crime wouldn’t result in removal.
Lee, a lawful permanent resident from South Korea, came to the U.S. in 1982 when he was 13, and as an adult he went on to operate two restaurants near Memphis, Tennessee. But he “started using ecstasy at parties,” according to his brief, and was eventually charged with ecstasy possession with an intent to distribute.
Lee pled guilty, with his trial attorney advising him that the plea wouldn’t lead to deportation, his brief says. But, as it turned out, the violation actually subjected him to “mandatory deportation,” and Lee has now been in detention for more than seven years, according to the brief.
On appeal, Lee and the government had sparred over whether Lee was actually prejudiced in the case, with the government arguing Lee couldn’t show he was prejudiced by not having a trial. Lee, on the other hand, had argued that for some people, a plea’s deportation result is so extreme that it’s actually rational to refuse the plea and go for a better deal or go to a trial, regardless of the strength of the evidence.
The Supreme Court’s 1984 ruling in Strickland v. Washington also loomed large in the appeal. Under that decision, a defendant has been deprived of counsel when a lawyer's performance falls “below an objective standard of reasonableness” and the performance adversely affects the defense.
Jae Lee v. U.S., case number 16-327, in the Supreme Court of the United States.