There are write-in advice and answer columns in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and blogs, addressing every conceivable topic. But how many of these openly address fabricated e-mails from "audience" members who are admittedly imaginary? Only one! "Valley Views on the Law," San Joaquin College of Law's monthly legal information radio show on FM 88.1. KFCF, in Fresno, does just that. In the "Dear Professors" segment, I answer the pressing and topical legal questions generated by my own perfervid imagination (along with one actual e-mail from an actual listener) every month, for the edification of the audience. You can also send me an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Here is a recent one preceding a discussion of “Crimigration.”

DEAR PROFESSORS:

Nothing proves how little you liberals care about America than how hard you work to provide benefits to illegal aliens at the expense of regular Americans. And nothing proves how evil you liberal lawyers are than the legal assistance you give to illegal aliens who are criminals. The next President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, tells the truths that liberals try to hide, and one of them is all the rapist Mexicans and other criminals who sneak illegally into the United States, where they ravage American victims, and are advised by liberal lawyers on how best to avoid being deported as a consequence of having been caught by the criminal justice system. There is absolutely no justification for this, and nothing you professional liars could ever say would convince me otherwise. That's why I and my fellow patriotic Americans will be voting for Donald J. Trump for President in 2016!

--James S. Thurmond, Edgefield, SC

 

I'm pleased to see that, like most conservatives, Mr. Thurmond, you are keeping an open mind on the subject. And like most conservatives (and too many liberals), you see the presumption of innocence, and the right to counsel, among other constitutional rights, as unnecessary impediments to effective police work, unless, of course, you are accused of a crime.

When someone is charged with criminal offenses, they often languish in jail for months, even years, while waiting for the trial at which they may be judged guilty or not guilty. This is generally because the accused person cannot afford bail. The prosecution often adds as many charges as conceivable against a defendant, carrying the threat of years in prison, so that they can offer a "plea bargain" to the accused where the more serious (and probably unprovable) charges are dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on a lesser charge.

Even an innocent person, having spent a year in jail awaiting trial, with no money for bail and none for a private attorney, will consider falsely pleading guilty to a charge that will result in his immediate release from custody rather than face more time waiting in jail only to risk the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. Such an accused who is also a non-citizen, whether in the United States legally or not, may not realize that by pleading guilty to any offense, he then becomes eligible for deportation. So an innocent non-citizen agreeing to falsely plead guilty because he will be sentenced to the time served waiting for trial and thus finally get out of jail, discovers the immigration consequences of his plea bargain when ICE shows up to send him to another country.

For many years this kind of deportation, along with the various other harmful ancillary effects of a criminal conviction, was considered a "collateral consequence" of the conviction, meaning that the defense lawyer for the accused had no obligation to warn her client about the danger when considering a plea bargain. Criminal defense attorneys generally knew very little or nothing about immigration laws, and probably did not regard it as an effective use of their time trying to learn about that arcane and highly specialized federal legal practice area.

However, in 2010 the US Supreme Court decided Padilla v. Kentucky, which held that defense counsel had an obligation to inform a client considering a plea of guilty that there would or might be adverse immigration consequences from such a plea. In appropriate circumstances, a failure to so warn a criminal defendant client would be regarded as ineffective assistance of counsel, a violation of constitutional rights, and the plea of guilty would be set aside, requiring the government to proceed to trial. This means that defense attorneys either have to become well-informed about immigration law, or immigration attorneys have to be available to provide expert guidance to defense attorneys representing non-citizen clients.

Beyond the xenophobia and the bigotry and the imperviousness to evidence of your despicable attitude, Mr. Thurmond, there is a misperception about the criminal justice system that is pervasive among Americans, who accept its depiction as the "thin blue line" of law enforcement protecting us, the civilized, against a howling tide of barbaric destroyer criminals. Why can't you understand that the constitutional rights provided to us all when we are accused of committing a crime are a vitally important protection from oppression by our own government?

Consider this situation of Washington Post journalist Jason Resaian, held by Iranian authorities since 2014, recently convicted of charges never publicly identified by an Iranian court after a secret trial in which reportedly no witness testimony was presented. This could never happen in the United States, unless one were an unlawful enemy combatant, because the Constitution demands that trials be public, and be fair, and where the accused is protected by the right to be informed of the charges, to be provided with counsel, able to confront the witnesses against him, and other mandatory procedures designed to insure that justice is done. All of these things, which conservatives complain "handcuff the police," are intended to protect the innocent and prevent the government from using its power to silence its critics. If Donald Trump were accused of wearing a ferret on his head, in violation of laws prohibiting the keeping of wild animals as pets, he would be entitled to all these protections to make sure that the prosecution wasn't something "trumped up" by President Obama to prevent the Donald from saving America from the Kenyan Socialist Communist Fascists.

So don't be so quick to condemn the protections that our Constitution provides to persons accused of a crime. Even if those persons are not citizens.