October 5, 2013
Timed to coincide with a nationwide day of demonstrations to prompt action on federal immigration reform legislation that is being blocked in the House of Representatives, Governor Brown today signed a number of state immigration-related bills.
Among the eight bills signed is AB 1024. That legislation expressly allows the Supreme Court to grant a law license to an undocumented immigrant who is otherwise qualified to practice. The Legislature speedily passed the bill after the court’s justices at last month’s oral argument in In re Garcia were skeptical about their authority under the then-existing law to admit undocumented immigrants to the bar, but also suggested the Legislature could grant them that authority.
So, what happens now to Mr. Garcia’s application for admission, and those of two other presumably similarly situated applicants? Less than two weeks ago, Garcia filed a motion to vacate submission of the matter because AB 1024 was pending. Granting the motion would extend the court’s time to issue a decision, which is currently due by December 2. But, given the Governor’s action today, the court might not need more time.
We see these as the two most likely next moves: (1) the court admits Garcia to practice law without further ado or (2) the court requests further briefing on the effect of AB 1024. The court could choose the first option if the justices are satisfied that the Legislature can — and now did — give the court the authority to admit undocumented immigrants, a belief that would be reinforced by the apparent oral argument agreement on that point by the attorney for amicus curiae United States, which was opposing Garcia’s admission. If the court first wants the United States’ agreement in writing, it will likely ask for more briefing. Requesting more briefing from an amicus curiae is a bit out of the ordinary, but this is not a normal judicial proceeding. Rather, it is a Supreme Court administrative matter and the only parties to the proceeding are Garcia and the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners, and the Committee is supporting the admission application.