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Tena-Corral v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 2, 2013

JOSEFINA TENA-CORRAL, Applicant-Appellee,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, John D. Ackerman, Judge.

The State of Iowa appeals the district court ruling granting Josefina Tena-Corral's application for postconviction relief.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick Jennings, County Attorney, and Mark Campbell, Assistant County Attorney, for appellant.

Priscilla E. Forsyth, Sioux City, for appellee.

Heard by Mullins, P.J., Bower, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

BOWER, J.

The State of Iowa appeals the district court ruling granting Josefina Tena-Corral's application for postconviction relief. The State argues the district court should not have found Tena-Corral's trial counsel performed ineffectively when she was not fully advised of the immigration consequences of her guilty plea. The district court's ruling was based upon a prediction as to the retroactivity of Padilla v. Kentucky that turned out to be incorrect. Because Padilla is not retroactive, trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to fully explain the immigration consequences of a guilty plea to Tena-Corral. We also reject Tena-Corral's contention she was affirmatively misinformed about the immigration consequences of her plea. We reverse and remand.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

This case presents the unusual circumstance where the district court predicted it would render a different ruling if it had the benefit of recent developments in the law. In the district court ruling, alternative outcomes were provided contingent upon a then-pending Supreme Court decision. The United States Supreme Court in Chaidez v. U.S., 133 S.Ct. 1103 (2013), entered a ruling that did not match the district court's prediction, leaving us with a district court ruling that essentially disavows itself.

Tena-Corral is an immigrant who admits she has been in this country illegally for a number of years. She has five children living with her in Iowa and an additional three children who reside in Mexico. Enrique Estrada is the father of four of these children. Estrada has lived with Tena-Corral intermittently and has failed to provide financial support for the children in spite of being employed.

In 2002 Tena-Corral applied for state assistance for her children. She falsely reported in the applications Estrada was not working and forged his signature on several of the forms. She was charged with two counts of fraudulent practices in the first degree. On September 9, 2008, Tena-Corral entered into an agreement with the State to plead guilty to one count of fraudulent practices in the first degree and receive a ten-year suspended prison sentence and five years of formal probation.

Tena-Corral filed her application for postconviction relief on July 13, 2011, claiming she received ineffective assistance of counsel. She contends her trial counsel advised her that a guilty plea resulting in a sentence of probation would carry no immigration consequences because immigration authorities would not be notified of the plea. Her trial counsel, Peter Van Etten, testified during the postconviction relief trial that he informed her any conviction would result in deportation.

This advice is important as it impacts upon Tena-Corral's understanding of a specific provision of federal immigration law. The United States Code allows for the cancellation of a deportation action when certain circumstances exist. See 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(1) (2002).[1] Under the statute a conviction for fraudulent practices in the first degree would preclude Tena-Corral from utilizing the cancellation procedure. Tena-Corral argues Van Etten provided her with incomplete and incorrect advice ...


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