Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Waste of the Appellate Court's Time, Perhaps?

Yesterday, the 7th District Court of Appeals (Amarillo) reported Lawrence v. Texas (yes, a different Lawrence), wherein the appellant, who had been convicted in accordance with his pleas, complained on appeal that the trial judge failed to admonish him of the possibility of deportation if he was not a United States citizen. The problem is...He is a citizen! Born in Texas!

Okay, it is true that under article 26.13(a)(4) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the trial court must make such an admonishment and that it was technically error for him omit a required warning. But come on! This is the kind of stuff that make lawyers look bad.

Having known Justice Quinn in law school, I can only imagine what he thought of this ridiculous argument. I'm sure his patience was thin when counsel presented this issue during oral argument. In his opinion, which is quite flip (not even 4 pages), Justice Quinn spends only one paragraph dismissing the claim:
Regarding the failure to admonish about deportation, the omission is harmless if the record shows that the defendant is a United States citizen and, therefore, not subject to deportation. VanNortrick v. State, 227 S.W.3d 706, 709 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). That is the situation here. According to a pen packet admitted into evidence, appellant was born in Texas. Since Texas remains part of the United States, appellant was born a United States citizen and is not subject to deportation. Thus, this particular error was harmless.
Why did the Court designate that such an opinion be published? Could it be so that no other creative appellate defense counsel try the same argument and other justices could be saved from writing opinions on such frivolous matter? Perhaps.