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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Jim Wagstaffe '80 Argues for Undocumented Immigrant's Bar Card

Oral arguments before the California Supreme Court, in The Recorder, Sept. 4, 2013.

Sergio Garcia seemed to have the wind in his sails as he tried Wednesday to become the first undocumented immigrant lawfully granted a California bar card.

The State Bar and Attorney General Kamala Harris support his application. He brings a compelling back story of self-sufficiency and perseverance. And there is no formal opposition.

But on Wednesday Garcia appeared to lack one key ingredient: Four California Supreme Court justices willing to stick their necks out.

Adjunct professor Jim Wagstaffe '80Indeed, all seven sounded inclined to strictly interpret a federal law that bars the issuance of professional licenses to undocumented immigrants, though the 1996 statute also gives states leeway to amend the standard through "enactment of a state law."

Kerr & Wagstaffe partner James Wagstaffe, representing the State Bar, urged the court to exercise its plenary authority over lawyer licensing, but the court sounded dubious.

After the arguments, Garcia said the Assembly and the Senate have passed resolutions supporting his application, but he acknowledged a resolution isn't the same as a law.

In the meantime, he vowed to continue pursuing his dream of practicing. "I know all of us dream of something," he said.

Read the full story from The Recorder.

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