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The Constitution Project, on behalf of its National Right to Counsel Committee, submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the petitioner’s application for certiorari in the case of Ifenatuora v. United States. Thank you to the contributions of Hunton & Williams as they assisted TCP in drafting and filing this brief.
TCP’s Ifenatuora brief raises two important questions relating to the Court’s post-Padilla jurisprudence. The first is that the non-retroactivity principle announced in Teague v. Lane should not apply to ineffective-assistance of counsel claims raised in a federal defendant’s first post-conviction challenge. The second is that the rule established in Padilla v. Kentucky—that the 6th Amendment requires counsel to inform his or her client of the immigration consequences of conviction—is a “watershed” rule of criminal procedure exempt from Teague. TCP’s brief explains that “[j]ust as Gideon revolutionized the way that the criminal justice system dealt with indigents, so too does Padilla revolutionize the way in which the system deals with aliens.”
This case involves a 21-year old man, Baron Pikes, who died after being electroshocked by a police officer at least eight times. A Section 1983 action was brought on behalf of Pikes’ young son, claiming that the officer used excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fifth Circuit held that the officer was immune from suit because it was not clearly established in 2008 that it was unconstitutional for police to use a Taser on a person multiple times even when he did not pose a safety or flight risk. The brief, filed by amici consisting of former Law Enforcement, Prosecutors, Judges, Corrections Officials, and Experts on Police Accountability and Use of Force, urges the Court to grant cert to make it clear that such devices cannot be used on people who are merely passively resisting but not posing a safety or flight risk.
TCP filed an amicus brief in Hinton v. Alabama urging the U.S. Supreme court to review the case. At issue is whether defense counsel is ineffective where the sole evidence against the defendant is based on forensic science and defense counsel does not retain a competent expert to rebut the State’s experts testimony.
This brief argues that, if the Court found ineffective assistance of counsel, Titlow was entitled to the benefit of the original plea deal, which her attorney rejected. Though the Court’s finding of no ineffective assistance of counsel meant it never reached the issue, TCP believes the Court should take the earliest opportunity to clarify what relief a defendant is entitled to in such a situation.
Arguing that the Supreme Court should agree to hear Long v. United States next term. When defense counsel fails to take action based on ignorance of the law, courts should evaluate ineffective assistance of counsel claims based on a less deferential standard than when counsel failed to take action for strategic reasons. Supreme Court precedent and a majority of Courts of Appeals agree with this approach.
The brief argues that a state must be held responsible for the failure to fund counsel for an indigent capital defendant when determining whether there has been a violation of the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.