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Bibas, Vazquez Share AILA Award for Supreme Court Litigation

June 20, 2011
Stephanos BibasYolanda Vazquez

For their work on the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Case Padilla v. Kentucky, Penn Law Professor Stephanos Bibas and Clinical Supervisor and Lecturer Yolanda Vázquez have received the 2011 Jack Wasserman Memorial Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Bibas and Vázquez were among a twelve-member team of pro bono attorneys selected for excellence in litigation in the field of immigration law for their work on Padilla. Students in Penn Law’s Supreme Court Clinic, which Bibas directs, also worked on the case. The Padilla team was presented with the award on June 16, 2011 during the AILA’s Annual Conference in San Diego, CA.

The AILA recognized the Padilla team for improving the rights for immigrants in the U.S. court system by successfully arguing to the Supreme Court that “criminal defense lawyers must advise their noncitizen clients about the risk of deportation if they accept a guilty plea.”

In announcing the award the AILA noted that in its opinion, the Supreme Court recognized that current immigration laws impose harsh and mandatory deportation consequences onto criminal convictions, a result of Congress’ 1996 decision to eliminate the Attorney General's discretionary authority to cancel removal in meritorious cases. "These changes to our immigration law have dramatically raised the stakes of a noncitizen's criminal conviction,” Justice Stevens wrote in the Court’s opinion. “The importance of accurate legal advice for noncitizens accused of crimes has never been more important."

The AILA stated in their announcement, “The litigation team took on this pro bono case as a labor of love, and brought about a result that has transformed the landscape of the rights of immigrants in our system.”

Bibas, the Director of Penn Law’s Supreme Court Clinic and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, is a leading scholar of criminal procedure with expertise in criminal charging, plea bargaining and sentencing. He studies the powers, incentives, information, and psychology that shape how prosecutors, defense counsel, defendants, and judges behave. Bibas has litigated a wide range of Supreme Court cases, both criminal and civil, and is writing a book (Assembly-Line Criminal Justice, Oxford, forthcoming 2011) on how criminal justice should do more to encourage acceptance of responsibility, remorse, apology, and forgiveness.

Vázquez, a former public defender in the District of Columbia and Chicago, is an expert on the intersection of immigration and criminal law and its impact on defendants, society, and the criminal justice system. Her research focuses on defense counsels’ duty to advise noncitizen defendants on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction. Vázquez also studies the effect of the intersection of immigration and criminal law in the criminal justice system on Latinos, arguing that the incorporation of immigration law and enforcement into the criminal justice system has become the primary means to subordinate and socially marginalize Latinos living in the United States. She currently co-teaches in the Civil Practice Clinic in addition to teaching a Crimmigration seminar.

Penn Law’s Supreme Court Clinic is the nation’s first to closely integrate students’ practical experience on U.S. Supreme Court matters with a semester-long academic seminar on the workings of the Court. Students conduct research, draft briefs, and help prepare strategy; in the past two years Clinic students have worked on three Supreme Court cases that Clinic instructors argued on the merits, and many more as amici, co-counsel, or at the cert stage.

Founded in 1946, the AILA is a non-profit, national organization of over 11,000 attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law. The Jack Wasserman Memorial Award was established by the AILA in 1980.

Additional members of the Padilla v. Kentucky litigation team include:

• Stephen B. Kinnaird, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Washington, DC
• Timothy G. Arnold, Dept. of Public Advocacy, Frankfort, KY
• D. Scott Carlton, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Los Angeles, CA
• Adam S. Cherensky, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Los Angeles, CA
• Alexander M.R. Lyon, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Palo Alto, CA
• Mitchell A. Mosvick, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Washington, DC
• Richard E. Neal, U'Sellis & Kitchen, PLC, Louisville, KY
• Leeann N. Rosnick, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, Washington, DC
• Elizabeth Stevens, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, San Francisco, CA
• Norton Tooby , Law Offices of Norton Tooby, Oakland, CA