By Nick Dobis, News Web/Social Media Producer
The California Supreme Court has granted Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant from Chico, admission to the State Bar allowing him to legally practice law in the state, according to the court’s website.
The court’s decision was unanimous and was authored by Chief Justice Tani-Cantil Sakauya.
According to the court’s website, the decision was based in part on a new statute passed by the State Legislature in September 2013 and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2013. The statute authorizes the court to admit State Bar applicants not lawfully present in the country and who have fulfilled the requirements to practice law. The statute became effective yesterday.
Read the statute: Business and Professions Code section 6064, subdivision (b)
Garcia was born in Mexico in 1977 and arrived in the United States illegally when he was 17 months old. After graduating from High School Garcia attended Butte College, the California State University, Chico, and the Cal Northern School of Law where he received his law degree in May 2009. Garcia passed the state bar exam in 2009 where on his application he stated he was not a legal U.S. citizen and that his citizenship status was still "pending".
After conducting an investigation into Garcia's background, the Committee of Bar Examiners submitted Garcia's name to the State Supreme Court for admission to the State Bar. In response the court ordered the committee to show cause to why the motion should be granted. The court heard arguments on the case on September 4, 2013 which focused on Garcia's case in relation to relevant federal statute. Two days later, the previously mentioned statute was earmarked into an unrelated bill in the State Legislature.
The court explained that in light of the new legislation enacted January 1, it did not need to determine whether an undocumented immigrant was ineligible to obtain a law license by virtue of United States civil code.
However, the court stated on their website they did not fully resolve the legal concerns surrounding this case because the court still needs to determine “whether there is any reason why undocumented immigrants, in general, should not be admitted to the State Bar, or whether there is any reason, specific to Garcia himself, that he should not be admitted to the State Bar.”
Despite this lingering concern, the court eventually ruled in favor of Garcia because there isn’t a state law or policy denying illegal immigrants the opportunity to obtain admission into the state bar and because of Garcia's law qualifications and moral character.