Monthly Archives: January 2014

A PREFERRED STANDARD FOR LAWYERS

Last week’s unanimous decision of the California Supreme Court to admit to the State Bar Sergio Garcia, an alien residing in the United States unlawfully, was not a surprise.  The decision issued on January 2, 2014, the day after Assembly Bill No. 1024 became effective.  That statute, codified as Business and Professions Code section 6064(b), authorized the Court to admit as an attorney at law “an applicant who is not lawfully present in the United States [who] has fulfilled the requirements for admission to practice law . . . .”Image

Sergio Garcia cut a sympathetic figure, and was ideally suited for the role of a party in a test case.  He did not sneak across the border; rather, he was brought over by his parents when he was 17 months old.  His father eventually attained citizenship, and Garcia himself has been in line for 19 years, waiting for an immigrant visa to become available.  When it does, it will legalize his presence in the country and provide a basis to adjust his status to lawful permanent resident.  Meanwhile, Garcia has graduated high school, college, and law school.  He passed the California bar exam on his first attempt, then applied for admission to the Bar. The Court noted that the State Bar Committee’s investigation found “that Garcia is a well-respected, hard-working, tax-paying individual who has assisted many others and whose application is supported by many members of the community, by past teachers, and by those for whom he has worked.”  In his application, Garcia candidly indicated that he was not a U.S. citizen, and that his immigration status was “pending.”

In many ways, the case represented an internal affairs matter for the California legal profession.  The California Supreme Court has final say over who can and who cannot practice law in the state.  But while the Court’s ultimate conclusion was not surprising, what was surprising was that not a single lawyer sitting on the bench, nor a single lawyer appearing before it, took any notice of the fact that Garcia was receiving very different treatment than other enterprising businessmen.  No one commented on the uncomfortable fact that this proceeding, conducted by lawyers before lawyers, established a preferred status for lawyers under the immigration laws. Continue reading

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