As the legal community patiently waits for the NJ Supreme Court to decide Gaitan, I am of the opinion that there will be a positive effect for non-citizen defendants regardless of the outcome (at least for those with future matters). These cases have raised the awareness of criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey as it pertains to non-citizen defendants pleading guilty to criminal offenses.
As a result, many lawyers have now studied up on immigration law and how it interacts with state criminal defense work. The synergy bewteen these two areas of state and federal law are more prevelant than every before as we continue to deport non-citizens at an alarming rate for serious and minor offenses.
Lawyers (generally) now realize that even minor offenses such as disorderly persons drug offenses and shoplifting, can lead to deportation. These issues are discussed more candidly in professional settings and from what I am witnessing, at a much higher level of understanding.
There is no longer a turn and look the other way mentality. The legal community is aware of just how important these issues are to the defendant and are treating them accordingly.
This could be as simple as advising a client that there is immigration issues that should be discussed with a immigration specialist before the case proceeds. Continued training and education is needed to give New Jersey criminal attorneys the tools they need to recognize these issues when they arise.
I watched the argument in Gaitan and I really do not know which way the court will rule on retro-activity. From my prospective, the language of Padilla was so clear, I do not see how a court could interpret the holding any other way. But one must realize, there is a practical side to this whole thing. Giving it retroactivity could result in a court system dealing with a much higher case load than before. Unfortunately, this may be the overriding, under emphasized motive behind any decision that goes against retroactivity.