JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT HOLDS SEMINAR
ON IMMIGRATION ISSUES
Justices of the Peace, along with several members of the Office of the Public Defender, attended a seminar on May 18, 2010 to learn more about the intersection of state criminal cases and federal immigration law. A focus of discussion was the recent case of Padilla v. Kentucky in which the United States Supreme Court held that counsel in a criminal case must inform a client if his or her guilty plea could have an impact on their immigration status. Participants learned that decisions, even in Justice of the Peace Court cases, can have immigration consequences because offenses that are misdemeanors under state law can be considered “aggravated felonies” under federal law and conviction of such offenses can have consequences for an individual’s immigration status. Specific misdemeanors under Justice of the Peace Court jurisdiction that would fit into this category were identified and discussion ensued on ways to ensure that defendants without attorneys can best be made aware that a guilty plea could have an impact on their immigration status.
The seminar was presented by the Center for Public Policy Studies and was part of a national project of the Center and the State Justice Institute concerning the effects of federal immigration law on state courts. As one of the learning sites for the project, the Delaware Justice of the Peace Court had previously participated with the Center in a study of immigration issues in New Castle and Sussex Counties. The seminar, which the participants agreed was extremely useful, was a recommendation resulting from the study.