Thursday, May 17, 2012

California Supreme Court To Decide Whether Undocumented Immigrant May Be Admitted to the California State Bar

On a controversy that has been brewing, the California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously issued an order directing the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California to show cause before the Supreme Court why the court should grant the Committee’s motion to admit Sergio C. Garcia to the State Bar of California as a licensed attorney. Garcia has graduated from law school in California and has passed the California bar examination, but is currently an undocumented immigrant. After reviewing his application and performing a moral character review, the Committee of Bar Examiners certified his name to the Supreme Court for admission to the State Bar. The bar notified the court of Garcia’s immigration status at the time the motion was filed.

The Supreme Court’s order directs the Committee of Bar Examiners and Garcia to file opening briefs in support of the Committee’s motion by June 18, 2012, and invites others to file amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court, either in support of or in opposition to the motion. In particular, the order invites amicus participation by the Attorneys General of California and the United States. The order also lists five specific questions as “among the issues that should be briefed.” The five questions are:

1. Does 8 U.S.C. section 1621, subdivision (c) apply and preclude this court’s admission of an undocumented immigrant to the State Bar of California? Does any other statute, regulation, or authority preclude the admission?

2. Is there any state legislation that provides — as specifically authorized by 8 U.S.C. section 1621, subdivision (d) — that undocumented immigrants are eligible for professional licenses in fields such as law, medicine, or other professions, and, if not, what significance, if any, should be given to the absence of such legislation?

3. Does the issuance of a license to practice law impliedly represent that the licensee may be legally employed as an attorney?

4. If licensed, what are the legal and public policy limitations, if any, on an undocumented immigrant’s ability to practice law?

5. What, if any, other concerns arise with a grant of this application?

Once the briefing is completed and the court has an opportunity to consider it, the court may set the case for oral argument.

Jerome Fishkin, Esq. has confirmed that he is representing Sergio Garcia.

A similar case is pending in Florida and the issue has arisen in a number of states.

KJ

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