October 16, 2013
The Supreme Court today vacated submission and requested additional briefing in In re Garcia, where the court will decide whether undocumented immigrants can be licensed to practice law in California. The reason is new legislation, AB 1024, which expressly gives the court the authority to admit to practice an otherwise qualified applicant “who is not lawfully present in the United States.”
Why not just admit Mr. Garcia right away? Well, for one thing, as the court notes in its order, AB 1024 isn’t effective until January 1, 2014, so the court doesn’t yet have the express authority to do so. For another, the court wants to make sure the exercise of that express authority complies with federal law, a topic that was extensively discussed at the oral argument. Thus, the parties are requested — and the amici curiae are invited — to file by November 15 supplemental briefs “addressing the effect of the recently enacted legislation on this proceeding.” Replies to the supplemental briefs can be filed by December 2. Because the primary issue is one of federal law, I’m sure the court is hoping that amicus curiae United States of America in particular will accept the briefing invitation.
The court’s order provides that the matter will be resubmitted on January 2 – the day after AB 1024 takes effect — which means the court will have until April 2 to file an opinion. However, because supplemental briefing will be completed a month before the resubmission date (barring any extensions) and because the court likely had already done substantial work on its opinion before the oral argument, it would not be surprising to see an opinion soon after January 2.