The outcome in State v. Ali exemplifies the procedural barriers that prevent a non-citizen of the United States from raising an ineffective assistance of counsel claim while subject to deportation as a result of a criminal conviction pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Fahad Ali, a non-citizen of the United States residing in Maine, pleaded guilty to and was convicted of aggravated trafficking of marijuana and was subsequently subject to deportation as a result of that conviction. Ali filed a motion for a new trial claiming that he did not receive effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment, when his attorney failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his criminal conviction. Ali relied on the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, which held that defense counsel has a duty to inform the client of deportation consequences of a guilty plea. However, the Superior Court denied Ali’s motion and concluded that Padilla, which was decided after Ali’s conviction, did not apply retroactively. Additionally, the court held that Ali was informed of the deportation consequences when he entered his guilty plea. On appeal, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, avoided the Padilla question and instead affirmed the denial of the motion on a procedural basis. The Law Court held that Ali improperly filed a motion for a new trial when the appropriate route to challenge the conviction was to bring a claim for post-conviction review, the “exclusive method of review” for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. As Justice Silver explained in the dissent, however, Ali would most likely be precluded from seeking post-conviction review based on the court’s prior decision in Ngo v. State, which held that a non-citizen awaiting deportation was not “restrained” under the post-conviction review statute. As a result, Ali would be left without an opportunity for judicial review. Furthermore, the dissent concluded that the court should address the application of Padilla in Maine, particularly its effect on the Ngo decision and also whether it applies retroactively. This Note analyzes the question that the Ali majority avoided answering – how Padilla should be applied in Maine, especially considering the Law Court’s past reluctance to decide this constitutional issue raised by non-citizens such as Ali. This Note begins in Part II with a brief overview of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act and how a non-citizen may raise a Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective assistance of counsel through the post-conviction review process in Maine. In Part III, this Note next examines the contrasting opinions of the majority and dissent in the Ali decision and specifically how the court’s decision and precedent will pose a challenge for Ali seeking post-conviction review in the future. Finally, in Part IV, this Note analyzes the imminent question that the Law Court will likely be required to decide in the future of how Padilla should be applied in Maine.
Hannah M. McMullen,
The Law Court's Unfinished Analysis in State v. Ali: Applying Padilla in Maine to Remove Procedural Barriers to Non-Citizens' Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol65/iss1/15