Jae Lee has been a legal resident of the United States for most of his life, after moving from South Korea at the age of thirteen. In 2008, Lee faced drug possession charges with the intent to sell, after being found with eighty-eight ecstasy pills. Lee wanted to avoid deportation at all costs, even if it meant a longer sentence. Lee’s lawyer advised him to take a plea deal, assuring him that it would not affect his immigration status — which turned out to be entirely false. Due to incorrect information from his lawyer, Lee took a deal that he most certainly would not have chosen if he had understood the consequences.
After being sent to a prison in which he would complete his sentence and then be deported, Lee filed a case asking to be allowed a chance in court. After almost eight years of waiting for his case to be heard, the Supreme Court made their decision on Friday to allow him a second chance. Even though he will almost certainly be convicted and made to carry out a longer sentence and still be deported, Lee is willing to try on the slight chance that he exonerated and allowed to remain in the United States.
Our Verdict: The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right of an accused person to a lawyer. The question prompted by this Supreme Court case was whether or not ignorant legal advice is grounds for a second chance at trial. Six out of the eight Justices settled on the side of Lee and competent lawyers. Immigration law is complex, and many lawyers are not well-trained on all of its intricacies. It is wrong for lawyers to take on cases in which immigration law is at play without a proper understanding of the complexities and the stakes.