Mincing Words: From Padilla to Practice

Does an attorney satisfy a resident alien client’s Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel by informing the client of the mere risks of deportation associated with a guilty plea, or must she predict the likelihood of deportation with even greater specificity? Kartik Madiraju (’17) examines this question, presented at the 2016 Evans Constitutional Law Moot, held at the University of Wisconsin. Though the Supreme Court has held that attorneys must inform their clients whether a guilty plea carries a risk of deportation, several of the Circuit Courts of Appeals disagree on how specifically an attorney must characterize the likelihood of that risk. This Contribution argues that the majority interpretation, requiring only that attorneys advise their clients of the mere existence of such a risk, is more consistent with the letter and spirit of Supreme Court precedent, and better reflects the discretionary nature of an Attorney General’s decision to order deportation.