Visiting Law School Assistant Professor Maureen Sweeney has been named as a recipient of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association's 2010 Public Service Award. Sharing the award is the Maryland Immigrant Rights Coalition (MIRC), of which she is a founder and current board member. The award was presented at the Bar Associationís annual gala on September 16.
In addition to teaching the School of Law's Immigration Clinic, Professor Sweeney has been studying and working on the issues and immigration consequences of criminal convictions, trying to ensure that defendants understand those consequences before they agree to accept a plea that could affect their immigration status, and that those consequences bear some minimal relation to justice. She is the principal author of a chart for criminal defense practitioners of the immigration consequences of criminal convictions under Maryland state law, and has spoken and trained widely in the state on this topic. She recently published "Fact or Fiction: The Legal Construction of Immigration Removal for Crimes," 27 Yale Journal on Regulation 47 (2010), an article that explains much of the theoretical, statutory and enforcement background behind the Supreme Court's recent Padilla v. Kentucky decision, in which the Court required criminal defense counsel to advise about possible immigration consequences of a proposed plea. She is currently collaborating with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys Association to develop a statewide response to support and train defense attorneys to carry out their new responsibilities under Padilla.Prior to coming to the law school, Professor Sweeney served as a staff attorney at Associated Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services in Baltimore. Prior to that, she worked for the Migrant Legal Action Program in Washington, DC; Farmworker Legal Services of North Carolina in Raleigh, NC; and the Texas Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance in Houston, Texas.
The MIRC is a non-profit organization dedicated to the coordination and enhancement of pro bono representation of low-income immigrants; community education, and advocacy on behalf of immigrants.