Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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On a motion for special findings for Special immigrant juvenile status (SIJ), the judge shall make such findings without regard to the ultimate merits or purpose of the juvenile’s application. The issue presented in these consolidated appeals was whether a judge may decline to make special findings based on an assessment of the likely merits of a movant’s application for SIJ status or on the movant’s motivation for seeking SIJ status. Here, an eight-year-old undocumented immigrant for Guatemala and a nineteen-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador filed motions seeking the request special findings for SIJ status. The probate and family court judge implicitly determined that neither child would be entitled to SIJ based on her interpretation of 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) and declined to make special findings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded the cases to the probate and family court for further fact finding, holding that the judge erred in these cases by declining to make special findings as to all three prongs of the special findings analysis. View "in re Guardianship of Penate" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident alien, pleaded guilty to an indictment alleging larceny of a motor vehicle. Defendant later moved to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the conviction, arguing that the judge accepted his plea without advising him that the guilty plea might have the consequences of exclusion from admission to the United States. The judge denied the motion. The Appellate Court affirmed, concluding (1) the Commonwealth failed to prove that Defendant received the required warning regarding exclusion from admission to the United States; but (2) Defendant failed to show that he faced the consequence of exclusion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction, holding (1) a defendant satisfies the burden of showing that his conviction may have the consequences of exclusion from admission to the United States by showing that he has a bona fide desire to leave the country and reenter and that, if he were to do so, there would be a substantial risk that he would be excluded from admission because of his conviction; and (2) Defendant here met this burden, and because Defendant was not warned of this consequence during his plea colloquy, his conviction must be vacated. View "Commonwealth v. Valdez" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who is not a citizen of the United States, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cocaine. Defendant was subsequently placed in a removal proceeding. Defendant filed a motion to vacate his guilty plea, claiming that he received ineffective assistance from his plea counsel when counsel provided erroneous advice that Defendant would not be subject to deportation. The motion was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that Defendant received ineffective assistance of plea counsel and remanded the matter for additional findings relating to the issue of prejudice. On remand, the judge allowed Defendant’s motion to vacate his guilty plea and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the judge did not abuse his discretion in allowing Defendant’s motion for a new trial; and (2) the affidavits of Defendant and his plea counsel provided a sufficient basis to conclude that, but for counsel’s errors, Defendant would not have pleaded guilty and would have decided instead on going to trial. View "Commonwealth v. Sylvain" on Justia Law