January 3, 2014 By Wallin & Klarich

An undocumented immigrant in California will be allowed to obtain his law license despite his illegal immigrant status, the California Supreme Court ruled. The landmark decision sets precedent for other illegal immigrants hoping to obtain their law license in California as well as other pending cases in the U.S.

The Story of Sergio Garcia


Sergio Garcia became a California resident permanently when he was 17 years old. He was told the process of obtaining his green card would take three to five years. Instead, he has been on a waiting list for 19 years and is still without a green card, which he is not expected to obtain until 2019.

But Garcia did not merely wait around for his immigration status to be resolved. He graduated from college and then from Cal Northern School of Law. Four years ago, he passed the California State Bar exam and was sworn in as a lawyer. Two weeks later, he received a letter saying his admission to the state bar was an error.

California Supreme Court Grants Garcia Law License

After being denied his law license, Garcia took legal action. In May 2012, the California Supreme Court justices agreed to hear his case. He had the support of the State Bar of California and the California State Legislature, which passed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to receive a law license. Despite the law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Garcia’s case was still pending and the justices did not dismiss it.

On Jan. 2, the California Supreme Court ruled that Garcia can be admitted to the state bar and legally practice as an attorney in California. The court said that no state law or public policy should prevent people like Garcia – who had been living in the state for years, was educated in the country and did not violate any laws aside from simply being present in the country – from getting a law license.

What Does this Decision Mean?

While Garcia is now allowed to practice as an attorney in California, his status as an illegal immigrant prevents any law firm from hiring him as an employee. However, he is able to practice on his own and Garcia said he plans to hire associates.

The decision sets precedent for other undocumented immigrants hoping to obtain a law license. In California, illegal applicants applying for the state bar will be treated the same as other applicants. There are also pending cases in Florida and New York that could also use this landmark decision as precedent.

Do you think justice was served for Sergio Garcia? Should he be allowed to practice law in California? Would you hire him as your attorney? Let us know your thoughts.

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