LGBT Legal Groups Support Undocumented Law Graduate, Urge California Supreme Court to Grant Law License

July 18, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, July 18, 2012)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of itself and Lambda Legal urging the California Supreme Court to grant the application of a California law school graduate who is also an undocumented immigrant to become a licensed attorney in California. The brief was filed in support of Sergio C. Garcia’s application to become a member of the State Bar of California. The Board of Examiners of the California State Bar has already determined that Mr. Garcia is qualified and should be admitted to the State Bar.

Garcia was born in 1977 and brought to the United States by his parents when he was just 17 months old. His family applied for an immigrant visa on his behalf in 1994, and he has been waiting in an undocumented status for nearly 18 years for the visa to become available. Garcia went to college and law school and passed the California bar examination. The Committee of Bar Examiners concluded that he had met all the requirements for admission as a licensed attorney and recommended that the California Supreme Court, which controls attorney licensing in the state, admit him to practice before the California courts.

Because it had not previously considered whether an undocumented person may be admitted as an attorney, the California Supreme Court requested briefing concerning whether federal or state law prohibits Garcia from obtaining a license to practice law. Both Garcia and the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California filed briefs urging the Court to admit Garcia, citing the Court’s 1973 decision permitting legal residents who are not United States citizens to become licensed attorneys in California.

“The California Supreme Court should affirm the State Bar’s determination that Mr. Garcia should be licensed to practice law,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Being undocumented has no more bearing on a person’s moral character or fitness to be a lawyer than a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Penalizing qualified individuals who are a vital part of our society and want nothing more than to contribute to California’s progress is discriminatory, short-sighted, and wrong. We salute Mr. Garcia for his willingness to be the public face of this issue and for showing such great courage and perseverance.”

Shelbi Day, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, added, “Bias is bias. Reasons formerly used to exclude LGBT people from practicing law and pursuing other professions that have since been discredited and renounced should not be a basis for discriminating against immigrants like Mr. Garcia.”

The brief filed by NCLR and Lambda Legal focuses on the historical similarities between Garcia’s case and the denial of professional licenses to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The brief observes that the past denial of bar membership and other professional licenses to LGBT individuals was rooted in biases and stereotypes that are similar in many ways to attitudes faced by undocumented people today, such as the idea that individuals in both groups are criminals or do not share the same moral values as other Americans. The brief argues that just as these rationales for denying professional licenses to LGBT people are no longer accepted today, the Supreme Court should reject any such arguments for preventing an undocumented person from obtaining a law license.

Read the brief.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |EOlvera@NCLRights.org

 


Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura Named as One of this Year’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40

July 18, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, July 18, 2012)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is proud to announce that Cathy Sakimura, NCLR’s Family Protection Project Director, was named one of this year’s Best Lawyers under 40 by the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Bar Association.

Since joining NCLR in 2006, Sakimura has worked to improve access to family law services for low-income LGBT parents and their children, with a focus on increasing comprehensive and culturally competent services to families of color. Sakimura’s recent victories include winning adoption rights for a lesbian mother whose petition to adopt was previously rejected by a Family Court in Hawaii, and co-counseling one of the first successful custody cases on behalf of the parent of a transgender child.

Sakimura’s recent precedent-setting court decisions include Chatterjee v. King, in which the New Mexico Supreme Court established crucial new protections for non-biological mothers raising children with a same-sex partner, and E.C. v. J.V., in which California’s 3rd District Court of Appeal affirmed that legal recognition of parentage is dependent upon the relationship between parent and child and not upon sexual orientation, gender, or marital status.

The LGBT Bar Association established the annual Best LGBT Lawyers under 40 award to recognize outstanding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legal professionals under the age of 40 who have distinguished themselves in their field and demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBT equality.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |EOlvera@NCLRights.org


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