Then They Came For Personal Injury Attorneys!—California Lets An Illegal Alien Practice Law

Previously by John Reid: Political Correctness At Elite Law Schools: It’s Not The Professors, It’s The Students—Which Is Why You Should Give To!

In 1911, Ambrose Bierce defined a lawyer as “one skilled in circumvention of the law” and a liar as a “lawyer with a roving commission” in his satirical Devil’s Dictionary. For the next century, many less-funny jokes have made similar points:

  • How do you know a lawyer his lying? His lips are moving
  • What do you call an honest lawyer? An oxymoron

Despite (or perhaps because of) this reputation, lawyers need to pass rigorous character and fitness tests before admission to the bar. A bar applicant must disclose all legal problems, down to traffic tickets. Many states require credit checks. While a couple of traffic tickets or even a DUI will not prevent most people from admission, any evidence of dishonesty will.

Illegal aliens commit a host of dishonest and illegal “crimes of moral turpitude” just to function in society—even putting illegal presence aside. Consider how often you need to give your social security number on some form. Illegals just fake it.

With this in mind, enter Sergio Garcia, an illegal alien who the Supreme Court of California recently approved for admission to the bar. [Illegal immigrant Sergio Garcia gets California law licence, BBC, January 3, 2014] As to be expected, Garcia has the relatively sympathetic DREAMER back-story. His parents brought him to the US as an infant, although he left when he was 9 and did not return until he was 17.

However, Garcia’s legal career is inconsistent with the celebrated “undocumented valedictorian” meme. He graduated from the ABA-unaccredited Cal Northern Law School, a school with a median LSAT score of 145—half a standard deviation lower than the lowest median LSAT of any ranked law school.

And—to his credit—Garcia does not lie to reporters and tell them that he aspires to use his law license to help the disenfranchised blah blah. Rather, he aspires to be a personal injury litigator—the type of attorney most responsible for the bad lawyer jokes.

Garcia passed the bar exam and then applied for his law license, admitting his illegal status. The California Committee of Bar Examiners found that, his illegal status notwithstanding, Garcia had “outstanding moral character,” and asked the California Supreme Court if he could be admitted.

Unfortunately for this plan, the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, better known as the Welfare Reform Act, explicitly preempts state agencies from giving public benefits to illegal aliens, and it defines a “professional license” administered by the state as a “public benefit.”

The usual collection of Leftist and ethnic groups, like La Raza, MALDEF, and the ACLU, all filed briefs in support of Garcia, as did the state of California, and the Deans of all the major public law schools in the state. Many corporate law firms like Moreston & Foster, Reed Smith, Orrick, and Arnold & Porter represented these groups—most likely pro-bono.

They argued that , because the California Supreme Court technically oversees the Board of Examiners, it is not a state agency and thus exempt from the law. This argument was so bad that the Obama Administration issued an amicus opinion opposing Garcia’s admission to the bar. (To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time that the Administration has sided against illegal aliens on a question of law.)

However, federal law does allow states to exempt public benefits from the Welfare Reform Act. And right after the Supreme Court held oral arguments, California state legislators—including a majority of the Republicans—voted to grant law licenses to illegal aliens. At this point, the Obama administration stated they had no objection to granting the license. [Emily Green, Calif. Law Allows Undocumented Immigrants To Practice Law, NPR, Oct. 8, 2013]

The California Supreme Court did not really address the outstanding problems:

  • It’s pretty difficult to have “outstanding moral character,” and be an illegal alien at the same time
  • While it is theoretically possible to be a lawyer and not breaking employment laws, the state’s granting someone a law license is implicitly an invitation to hire him—which is still illegal.

That said, I don’t think the opinion’s logic is unreasonable. The real fault lies with the California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown for enacting such an outrageous law.

Rather than focus on this one law, consider that an illegal alien can show up to a court of law, tell everyone he is an illegal alien, and have no fear of deportation. So much for “living in the shadows.”

The legal industry is overwhelmingly in favor of Amnesty, as demonstrated by the law school deans and corporate lawyers’ support of Garcia. Almost every law school has an immigrant and/or refugee law clinic, where students can help illegal aliens stay in the country, and it’s is a major part of most pro-bono practices at corporate law firms.

Ideology plays a part, but it’s also true that lawyers have not had to compete with illegal aliens for their jobs—until now.

The legal market has collapsed in the last several years, but admission to law schools is still competitive. While the attorneys at major firms like Morrison & Foerster and Arnold & Porter perhaps do not need to worry about competing with illegal alien ambulance chasers from unaccredited schools, there are plenty of recent law school grads with poor credentials and mountains of debt who are struggling for the scraps. They do not need to compete against illegal aliens—especially ones who will benefit from Affirmative Action.

In an ideal world, the federal government should immediately make Sergio Garcia a test case for’s proposed policy of “strategic deportation.” And the U.S. Congress could rescind the ability of states to grant professional licenses to illegals. Libertarians would whine about “States’ Rights”—but where were they when the Obama Administration attacked Arizona, when Congress never preempted the law to begin with?

Personal injury attorney is not a job that Americans won’t do. And no one is worried that we don’t have enough of them.

John Reid [email him] is an American citizen and a recent law school graduate.