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Paul Hastings Secures a U.S. Supreme Court Victory!

April 01, 2010

Pro Bono Committee

Paul Hastings maintains a strong commitment to pro bono and community service, and works to positively impact the communities around us. One case in particular caught Paul Hastings partner Stephen Kinnairds attention. This turned out to be a good thing, since we just secured an historic U.S. Supreme Court victory for our pro bono client in Padilla v. Kentucky.

Jose Padilla, a non-U.S. citizen who had been living legally in the U.S. for nearly 40 years, was arrested on a drug charge in 2002.

His defense lawyer mistakenly told him that he would not risk deportation if he entered a guilty plea. Following his lawyers advice, he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to a 10-year prison term, with the last five probated. The lawyers advice was incorrect; the felony to which Mr. Padilla pleaded guilty subjected him to mandatory deportation. Mr. Padilla sought to vacate his plea on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment, but the Kentucky Supreme Court held that advice on the collateral consequences of conviction (including deportation) was outside the scope of the Sixth Amendment guarantee.

Mr. Padilla filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging that ruling. Mr. Kinnaird, co-chair of the Paul Hastings Appellate Litigation practice, became Mr. Padillas lead lawyer in the Supreme Court.

Mr. Kinnaird solicited amicus support for the petition. He contacted Stephanos Bibas, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, for his assistance. Professor Bibas, together with clinical professor Yolanda Vasquez, prepared and filed a brief on behalf of law professors and immigrants rights organizations. Shortly thereafter, the Law School founded a Supreme Court clinic.

At the merits stage, the Penn Clinic participated directly in the representation of Mr. Padilla.

This was a wonderful opportunity for the eight law students who participated in the Clinic to gain real world experience. They conducted pertinent research and got a rare taste of practical lawyering at a unique stage of a U.S. Supreme Court case something even experienced lawyers rarely, if ever, are privileged to get.

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