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New York High Court Protects Right of Immigrants to Appeal NY Criminal Convictions

In an important victory for the rights of immigrants convicted of crimes, on October 25, 2011, New York’s highest court held in a pair of cases that the intermediate appeals courts abuse their discretion when they dismiss the criminal appeals of defendants who have been involuntarily deported. In both People v. Ventura and People v. Gardner, Nos. 11-160, 11-161 (N.Y. Oct. 25, 2011), the defendants were deported while the appeals of their trial convictions were pending.  Although state law guarantees every defendant the right to appeal a criminal conviction to the intermediate court, those courts had been dismissing the appeals of deported defendants on the theory that the defendants were outside the jurisdiction of the court and therefore not available to obey the courts’ mandates.  Noting the “uniquely critical role in the fair administration of justice” a first appeal plays in the criminal justice system, the high court held that immigrant defendants “have a[n even] greater need to avail themselves of the appellate process” than citizen defendants “in light of the tremendous ramifications of deportation,” and ruled that the intermediate courts must hear the appeals (whether or not the challenged conviction was the sole or primary cause of the defendant’s deportation).

IDP filed an amicus brief in both cases in partnership with the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project at Boston College.  Appellants Ventura and Gardner were represented by Appellate Advocates.  For additional news coverage of this landmark decision, click here.

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