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News Posted on January 12, 2011

Immigration Law Clinic Teaches the Lessons of Padilla

In 2010, the Supreme Court decision in Padilla v. Kentucky changed the way the American legal system deals with non-citizen defendants.  Now, as legal professionals in California and around the country seek to understand what these changes mean, Professor Raha Jorjani and the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic are playing a leadership role in providing the information and assistance they need.

"Padilla changes the law in California and around the country, because it adds the component of a duty to affirmatively advise on the immigration consequences of a conviction in cases involving non-citizens," said Jorjani.  "Padilla says that under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to the effective assistance of counsel, and that includes accurate advice regarding the immigration consequences of a particular plea or conviction."

The Padilla case involved a Honduras-born lawful permanent resident and veteran who was mistakenly advised by his public defender that he would face no immigration consequences as a result of his plea, yet wound up facing deportation when that advice turned out to be incorrect.  The Supreme Court recognized in Padilla that deportation is a particularly severe consequence and that non-citizen defendants should be advised of such consequences before entering a plea.  Unfortunately, most public defenders lack the expertise in immigration law needed to accurately advise on immigration consequences.

Jorjani and the Immigration Clinic have taken a leadership role in the effort to fill this gap.  Even before Padilla, Jorjani and the Immigration Clinic students were providing free legal advice to public defenders regarding the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, both in the form of office-wide trainings as well as individual consultations.  Recent months have found Jorjani speaking on Padilla at the annual conference of the California Public Defenders Association, a training session for Arizona family and criminal court judges and administrators in Phoenix, the National Lawyers' Guild annual convention in New Orleans, a training session at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, and in a videotaped interview recorded for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.  She also serves as in-house immigration counsel to the Alameda County Office of the Public Defender one day per week-a model she has often suggested to public defender offices that cannot afford to hire full-time immigration attorneys.

The Immigration Clinic is also training a future generation of immigration and criminal defense attorneys with a new program in which clinic students spend part of their time with the Yolo County Public Defender, advising on immigration-related cases.  Jorjani co-supervises the students with Ron Johnson '04, a King Hall alumnus and Yolo County Deputy Public Defender.

"Working with public defenders provides our students with an opportunity to engage in critical and timely advocacy," said Jorjani.  "They're experiencing an area of law that even many practicing immigration counsel are not well versed in. Even if they don't plan on practicing immigration law, they're gaining direct experience in criminal law as well as grappling with the larger concepts of collateral consequences."

Jorjani joined the King Hall faculty in 2007 already having benefitted from years of experience working with non-citizen defendants at City University of New York Law School's Adult Defenders Clinic and Families for Freedom, a New York-based defense network for immigrants fighting deportation, and at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, where she represented individuals detained by the Department of Homeland Security.  Since then, her work with the Immigration Law Clinic has brought her into almost daily contact with issues surrounding the immigration consequences of criminal convictions-experience that has helped her lead the way in interpreting the consequences of Padilla.

She said her work educating legal professionals regarding Padilla is simply an extension of the Immigration Clinic's longstanding commitment to immigrant communities.  "The Immigration Law Clinic's commitment to educating the criminal defense bar on immigration consequences of criminal convictions existed long before Padilla, and is just one example of the clinic's work on cutting-edge issues that directly impact immigrant communities," said Jorjani.  

The UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic is one of the few organizations in Northern California offering free legal services in the area of detention, deportation, and the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and Jorjani's training with regard to Padilla is only one example of how this work directly impacts immigrant communities.  Alumni support for the Immigration Law Clinic is vital to the Law School's ability to continue to operate the clinic and serve communities in need.  Please consider a gift to the Immigration Law Clinic!

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