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In re Garcia

Supreme Court of California

January 2, 2014

In re Sergio C. GARCIA on Admission.

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[165 Cal.Rptr.3d 857] Fishkin & Slatter, Walnut Creek, Jerome Fishkin, Lindsay K. Slatter, Samuel C. Bellicini; Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, Los Angeles, and Robert Cooper for Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Manuel M. Medeiros, Sate Solicitor General, Kathleen A. Kenealy, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jonathan Wolff, Acting Chief Assistant Attorney General, Douglas J. Woods, Assistant Attorney General, Rochelle C. East, Tamar Pachter, Daniel J. Powell and Ross C. Moody, Deputy Attorneys General, for California Attorney General as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Irell & Manella, Carlos R. Moreno, Eric A. Webber and BJ Ard for Los Angeles County Bar Association, Alameda County Bar Association, Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley, Bar Association of San Francisco, Beverly Hills Bar Association, Kern County Bar Association, Marin County Bar Association, Mexican American Bar Association, Multicultural Bar Alliance of Southern California, Riverside County Bar Association, Sacramento County Bar Association, San Bernardino County Bar Association, San Diego County Bar Association, Santa Clara County Bar Association and South Asian Bar Association of Northern California as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Anthony P. Marquez; Law Office of Denis White and Joshua Kaizuka, Sacramento, for La Raza Lawyers Association of Sacramento and Asian/Pacific Bar Association of Sacramento as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Ilyce Shugall; Dolores Street Community Services, Francisco M. Ugarte and Jaclyn Shull Gonzalez as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Rigoberto J. Arrechiga, Elizabeth P. Uribe, South Pasadena, and Juan A. Ramos for the Mexican American Bar Association of Los Angeles County as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco, Arturo J. Gonzáles, Claudia M. Vetesi, Alexandria A. Amezcua, Javier Serrano; Girardi Keese, Los Angeles, Howard B. Miller; Bacon Immigration Law & Policy Program and Nina A. Rabin, Oakland, for California Latino Legislative Caucus as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

[165 Cal.Rptr.3d 858] Sharon P. Minter, Christopher F. Stoll and Angela K. Perona for National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Reed Smith, San Francisco, Raymond A. Cardozo, David J. de Jesus, Rachel M. Golick and Delaney M. Andersen for Michael A. Olivas, Holly S. Cooper, Karen Musalo, Hiroshi Motomura, Cruz Reynoso, and other immigration law professors as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Jennifer Chang Newell, Michael Tan; Lee Gelernt; Tanya Broder; and Bernard P. Wolfsdorf, Santa Monica, for the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Asian Law Caucus, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and National Immigration Law Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Arnold & Porter, Jerome B. Falk, Jr., Lisa Hill Fenning, Los Angeles, John Throckmorton, San Francisco; Akins Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, William A. Norris, L. Rachel Lerman, Los Angeles, and Amit Kurlekar, San Francisco, for law school deans Sandra L. Brooks, Erwin Chemerinsky, Christopher Edley, Jr., Victor Gold, Rachel Moran, Drucilla S. Ramey, and Frank H. Wu as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Brigit G. Alvarez, South Pasadena, for Joseph A. Vail Center for Immigrant Rights as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

UCLA Downtown Labor Center and Tia Koonse for Dream Team Los Angeles, Orange County Dream Team, California Dream Network, San Fernando Valley Dream Team and United We Dream Network as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Cynthia J. Larsen, Sacramento, Sarah C. Marriott, Alexis Yee-Garcia, San Francisco, Judy Kwan, Los Angeles; Latino Justice PRLDEF and Jose Perez for Cesar Vargas as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Nicholás Espíritu for Dream Bar Association, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Asian Law Alliance, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund and National Council of La Raza as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Nicholas Kierniesky, in pro. per., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner Sergio C. Garcia.

Starr Babcock, Lawrence C. Yee, Richard J. Zanassi, San Francisco, Rachel S. Grunberg; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Irvine, Robert E. Palmer, Joshua A. Jessen, Drew A. Harbur; Mark A. Perry; Minami Tamaki, San Francisco, Donald K. Tamaki, Minette A. Kwok, Phillip M. Zackler; Kevin R. Johnson; Bill Onh Hing; Bryan Springmeyer; Kerr & Wagstaffe, San Francisco, and James N. Wagstaffe for Respondent Committee of Bar Examiners of State Bar of California.

Larry DeSha, in pro. per., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondent Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.

Stuart F. Delery Acting Assistant Attorney General (United States), Beth S. Brinkmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 859] General, Mark B. Stern, Michael P. Abate and Daniel Tenny for the United States of America as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondent Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.

CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C.J.

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[315 P.3d 120] The Committee of Bar Examiners (Committee)— the entity within the State Bar of California (State Bar) that administers the California bar examination, investigates the qualifications of bar applicants, and certifies to this court candidates it finds qualified for admission to the State Bar— has submitted the name of Sergio C. Garcia (hereafter Garcia or applicant) for admission to the State Bar. In conjunction with its certification, the Committee has brought to the court's attention the fact that Garcia's current immigration status is that of an undocumented immigrant, [1] and has noted that the question [315 P.3d 121] whether an undocumented immigrant may be admitted to the State Bar is an issue that has not previously been addressed or decided by this court. We issued an order to show cause in this matter to address the question.

Our order to show cause requested briefing on a number of issues raised by the Committee's motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar, including the

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proper interpretation of a federal statute— section 1621 of title 8 of the United States Code (hereafter section 1621)— that generally restricts an undocumented immigrant's eligibility to obtain a professional license but that also contains a subsection expressly authorizing a state to render an undocumented immigrant eligible to obtain such a professional license through the enactment of a state law meeting specified requirements. Very shortly after we held oral argument in this matter, the California Legislature enacted a statute that was intended to satisfy this aspect of section 1621 and the Governor signed that legislation into law. (Bus. & Prof.Code, § 6064, subd. (b); Stats.2013, ch. 573, § 1, enacting Assem. Bill No. 1024 (2013-2014 Reg. Sess.) as amended Sept. 6, 2013.) The new legislation became effective on January 1, 2014.

In light of the recently enacted state legislation, we conclude that the Committee's motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar should be granted. The new legislation removes any potential statutory obstacle to Garcia's admission posed by section 1621, and there is no other federal statute that purports to preclude a state from granting a license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant. The new statute also reflects that the Legislature and [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 860] the Governor have concluded that the admission of an undocumented immigrant who has met all the qualifications for admission to the State Bar is fully consistent with this state's public policy, and, as this opinion explains, we find no basis to disagree with that conclusion. Finally, we agree with the Committee's determination that Garcia possesses the requisite good moral character to warrant admission to the State Bar and, pursuant to our constitutional authority, grant the Committee's motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar.

I. Summary of Facts and State Bar Proceedings

The record before us indicates that applicant Garcia was born in Villa Jimenez, Mexico, on March 1, 1977. When he was 17 months old, his parents brought him to California, without inspection or documentation by immigration officials. He lived in California until 1986 (when he was nine years old) and then he and his parents moved back to Mexico. In 1994, when Garcia was 17 years old, he and his parents returned to California; again Garcia entered the country without documentation. At that time, Garcia's father had obtained lawful permanent resident status in the United States pursuant to federal immigration law, and on November 18, 1994, his father filed an immigration visa petition (form I-130 [petition for alien relative] ) on Garcia's behalf. [2] The petition was accepted by federal immigration officials on January 31, 1995. Under federal immigration law, the visa petition provides

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Garcia with a basis to apply for adjustment of his immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident when an immigrant visa number becomes available. Under current provisions of federal immigration law, however, the number of available immigrant visas that may be issued each year is limited and is based upon an applicant's country of origin. Because the current backlog of persons of Mexican origin who are seeking immigrant visas is so large, as of the date of this opinion— more than 19 years after Garcia's visa petition was filed— a visa number still [315 P.3d 122] has not become available for Garcia. [3]

Garcia has resided in California without interruption since 1994. During this period of time, he graduated from high school, [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 861] attended Butte College, California State University at Chico, and Cal Northern School of Law. He received his law degree from Cal Northern School of Law in May 2009, and took and passed the July 2009 California bar examination.

In response to questions on the State Bar's application for determination of moral character, Garcia indicated that he is not a United States citizen and that his immigration status is " Pending." [4] The Committee conducted an extensive investigation of Garcia's background, employment history, and past activities, received numerous reference letters supporting ...


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