The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider whether the State Bar has the authority to license an undocumented immigrant and allow him to become a practicing lawyer.

In their weekly closed-door conference, the justices unanimously decided to consider the case of Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who graduated from Chico State University, a Florida law school and passed the State Bar exam in July 2009 but has been stalled in his bid to secure his California law license.

A State Bar committee concluded that Garcia should be admitted to practice law in California, but the issue is up to the state Supreme Court. The justices indicated they must explore a host of legal issues to resolve the question. They asked for legal arguments from a range of groups, including California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the U.S. government.

There are questions about whether illegal immigrants, under federal immigration law, have a legal right to be approved for professional licenses such as those permitting the practice of law in a state. In its order, the California Supreme Court asked for legal arguments on whether it has the authority to permit Garcia to be licensed under that federal law.

The Daily Journal, a legal newspaper, reported last year that Garcia was brought to the U.S. by his parents at 17 months old and has been waiting for more than a decade for a green card. Garcia, according to the account, is being sponsored for legal status by a relative.

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.



Advertisement