On a motion for special findings for Special immigrant juvenile status (SIJ), the judge shall make such findings without regard to the ultimate merits or purpose of the juvenile’s application. The issue presented in these consolidated appeals was whether a judge may decline to make special findings based on an assessment of the likely merits of a movant’s application for SIJ status or on the movant’s motivation for seeking SIJ status. Here, an eight-year-old undocumented immigrant for Guatemala and a nineteen-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador filed motions seeking the request special findings for SIJ status. The probate and family court judge implicitly determined that neither child would be entitled to SIJ based on her interpretation of 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) and declined to make special findings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded the cases to the probate and family court for further fact finding, holding that the judge erred in these cases by declining to make special findings as to all three prongs of the special findings analysis. View "in re Guardianship of Penate" on Justia Law
Defendant, who was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident alien, pleaded guilty to an indictment alleging larceny of a motor vehicle. Defendant later moved to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the conviction, arguing that the judge accepted his plea without advising him that the guilty plea might have the consequences of exclusion from admission to the United States. The judge denied the motion. The Appellate Court affirmed, concluding (1) the Commonwealth failed to prove that Defendant received the required warning regarding exclusion from admission to the United States; but (2) Defendant failed to show that he faced the consequence of exclusion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction, holding (1) a defendant satisfies the burden of showing that his conviction may have the consequences of exclusion from admission to the United States by showing that he has a bona fide desire to leave the country and reenter and that, if he were to do so, there would be a substantial risk that he would be excluded from admission because of his conviction; and (2) Defendant here met this burden, and because Defendant was not warned of this consequence during his plea colloquy, his conviction must be vacated. View "Commonwealth v. Valdez" on Justia Law
Defendant, who is not a citizen of the United States, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cocaine. Defendant was subsequently placed in a removal proceeding. Defendant filed a motion to vacate his guilty plea, claiming that he received ineffective assistance from his plea counsel when counsel provided erroneous advice that Defendant would not be subject to deportation. The motion was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that Defendant received ineffective assistance of plea counsel and remanded the matter for additional findings relating to the issue of prejudice. On remand, the judge allowed Defendant’s motion to vacate his guilty plea and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the judge did not abuse his discretion in allowing Defendant’s motion for a new trial; and (2) the affidavits of Defendant and his plea counsel provided a sufficient basis to conclude that, but for counsel’s errors, Defendant would not have pleaded guilty and would have decided instead on going to trial. View "Commonwealth v. Sylvain" on Justia Law
Defendant, a noncitizen, admitted into the United States as a refugee. Defendant entered a guilty plea to a complaint charging him with, among other counts, assault by means of a dangerous weapon. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea to the charge of assault by means of a dangerous weapon on the basis that his attorney did not make a reasonable inquiry regarding Defendant’s citizenship and therefore did not learn that he was a refugee. The motion judge concluded that counsel’s performance was deficient but that Defendant was not prejudiced by the attorney’s deficient performance. The motion judge denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial and motions for reconsideration, holding (1) constitutionally effective representation of a criminal defendant requires defense counsel to make a reasonable inquiry to determine whether the defendant is a citizen of the United States and, if not, to make a reasonable inquiry into the defendant’s immigration status, including whether the defendant was admitted into this country as a refugee; and (2) in determining whether a defendant suffered prejudice from counsel’s deficient performance, “special circumstances” regarding immigration consequences, including a defendant’s status as a refugee or asylee, should be given substantial weight in determining whether the defendant suffered prejudice. Remanded. View "Commonwealth v. Lavrinenko" on Justia Law
Defendant, a noncitizen of the United States, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and received a sentence of probation. Defendant was subsequently arrested for driving without a license and taken into custody by immigration authorities. Contending that his defense counsel’s advice was constitutionally deficient, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. A superior court allowed the motion, concluding that Defendant’s counsel gave Defendant constitutionally deficient advice when he told Defendant he would be “eligible for deportation” if he pleaded guilty to the drug possession charges. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because the conviction of a noncitizen with intent to distribute cocaine makes deportation or removal from the United States presumptively mandatory, counsel’s advice was constitutionally deficient in that it did not convey what is clearly stated in federal law.View "Commonwealth v. DeJesus" on Justia Law
A Boston police officer witnessed Sylvain engaging in a sexual act with a prostitute. As the officer approached, Sylvain removed plastic baggies from his coat pocket and placed them in his mouth. Believing that the baggies contained "crack" cocaine and fearing overdose, the officer attempted to intercede. Although Sylvain ingested the drugs, a search of his jacket revealed an additional baggie of crack cocaine. The incident took place within 1,000 feet of a child care center. Sylvain, a noncitizen lawfully residing in the U.S., pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, subjecting him to automatic deportation. After the conviction the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that the rule announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Padilla v. Kentucky (2010) regarding a criminal defendant's right under the Sixth Amendment to accurate advice about the deportation consequences of a guilty plea, was not a "new" rule and applied retroactively to cases on collateral review. Sylvain sought to vacate his guilty plea, arguing that his attorney erroneously advised him that there would be no deportation consequences. The motion was denied. While Sylvain's appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Chaidez v. United States (2013), holding that Padilla did announce a "new" rule and does not apply retroactively to collateral challenges. The Massachusetts Supreme Court remanded, holding that, as a matter of Massachusetts law, the right enunciated in Padilla was not new and, consequently, defendants whose state law convictions were final after April 1, 1997, may attack their convictions collaterally on Padilla grounds. View "Commonwealth v. Sylvain" on Justia Law
Defendant appealed the denial of his second motion for a new trial in which he sought to vacate guilty pleas he entered in 2005, on the ground that he was deprived of his right of effective assistance of counsel, as that right had recently been explicated in Padilla v. Kentucky. At issue was whether Padilla applied retroactively to defendant's collateral challenge to his convictions and, if so, whether he had demonstrated that he was prejudiced by counsel's shortcomings. The court held that Padilla did apply retroactively on collateral review of guilty pleas obtained after the enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009-546. The court also held that defendant had made an insufficient showing that had he been properly informed of the immigration consequences of his guilty pleas, there was a reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different. Therefore, the court affirmed the denial of defendant's motion for a new trial.