Ethics Dunce: The California State Bar

This question should be easy.

This will be a short post, unless I snap in the middle of writing it and get hysterical.

Why is The California State Bar August’s first Ethics Dunce? This news item says it all:

“A California State Bar panel is considering whether an illegal immigrant who passed the exam to practice law should be admitted despite his status.”

Pardon me, California State Bar, but exactly what is there to “consider?” 

I can see the value of some general consideration of the insanity of California’s laissez faire attitude toward illegal immigrants, and the fact that California residents seem to have no problem with allowing them to use schools, hospitals, public schools, universities and others services that their bankrupt state can barely afford. I can see the need for some reconsideration of the foolishness of creating incentives for illegal immigrants to continue living a lie in America by giving them the benefits of a Dream Act, like the one Governor Brown recently signed into law. I can see value in considering how it can possibly be fair and responsible to make other immigrants wait for their applications for immigration to be processed and duly approved according to legal requirements, while looking the other way and whistling as other clandestine immigrants ignore the law, in effect jumping ahead of legal immigrants in line.

But since membership in the California bar requires evidence of good moral character, which includes honesty, trustworthiness and respect for the law, especially in the matter of not using fraudulent or illegal documents, I don’t understand what there is to consider when an illegal immigrant, having graduated from law school thanks to California’s willful ignorance of his illegal status, chooses to pursue the next step of applying  or a license as a lawyer when his entire life and residence  in the U.S. have in fact been in violation of the law.

If California views such contempt for our nation’s laws as not disqualifying an applicant from being a lawyer, then I don’t see how it could ever deny anyone a bar membership on the basis of character. In fact, if it takes California’s State Bar more than a millisecond to figure out the answer to the question, “Should an illegal immigrant be granted a license to practice law?,”  then the California’s State Bar is ethically hopeless.

Time’s up. The answer is no.

11 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: The California State Bar

  1. I’d say give him a conditional admission based on his gaining legal immigration status with temporary status based on the expiration of his immigration documents. Permanent admission for the bar should be for permanent citizens and revoked when citizenship is forfeited.

    My opinion could be swayed to “No admission at all.” depending on what scholarship aid he was given and how much he lied in application papers for school, scholarships, etc.

    He may have gotten through school with never being asked about his legal status – which means – no lies. When he became aware of his illegal status, that may have been towards the end of his schooling or even after.

    • Mr. LeVier,
      Whether he answered that specific question, written or verbally, is utterly irrelevant to whether it was a lie. This would be like claiming you never “lied” to your wife about an affair simply because she never asked. Finding a loophole doesn’t let you off the hook, as there was no option given to “plead the fifth.” The point is, he intentionally didn’t disclose information he knew would disqualify him from consideration and did so for personal gain. Whether that counts as a lie in the strictest sense of the word is for etymologists to decide, but I agree with Jack, it was still unethical.

      Moreover, why should scholarship aid make a difference? Is Rosie Ruiz less culpable for cheating in the Boston Marathon just because she payed her own admission fee? I’m confused.

      Nothing about the article or other information I read seems to suggest he was lied to or genuinely unaware of his illegal status. Were that to be the case, forgiveness or leniency might be reasonable, but that all depends on how the rules were crafted.

      • That’s the way I see it, Neil. One’s presence in the country is an implicit representation that you are here legally, just as attendance at a private party or wedding implies that you were invited.

        • What would have happened if he passed the bar exam and left the country immediately to sort out his immigration status? Would his application have been denied because he wasn’t an active resident in California? Does he have to maintain residency?

          If residency is not a factor, then I think the time that has passed, 2+ years shows moral corruption. He obviously has known about his illegal status for that time period and should have left the country to fix it now that he’s grown and has his education. His continued presence since it has been demonstrated that he knew he wasn’t a legal resident is the smoking gun in this story.

          • Yes, I think that’s correct. I.m not sure what the residence requirement is, but, you certainly can belong to a bar where you don’t reside. I’m a Mass lawyer, and I haven’t lived there is 35 years, and barred in DC, where I haven’t lived in 36 years.

      • Your affair analogy is crap because you made a vow of faithfulness in your marriage. Not mentioning to your girlfriend of a month about your sexual relations with others would be more apt. Unless that girlfriend told you outright that she thought the relationship was exclusive, is it really cheating or continuing your regular practice?

        I’m not suggesting that he needed to have answered the question directly, there is plenty of indirect evidence I would accept. (I just thought those were closer to being a smoking gun.) Do application pre-requisites state a need for being a citizen? A legal resident? A resident? Anything?

        My post was highly hypothetical. It supposed that he was potentially unaware of his resident status. Hypothetical, in this case, means I’m too lazy to find out his life story. Any facts you may have you may present to me to see how I change my opinion, but they don’t show flaws in hypothetical reasoning based on hypothetical facts.

        Scholarship aid would make a difference because those are generally application oriented affairs. More opportunities for lies. Since Jack raised the issue of him having a damaged character for being in the country illegally, I was trying to make the point that if he did a lot of lying, his character would not be easily repaired. Let’s pretend he claimed non-resident status and paid full tuition and fees, a premium for his education and few venture to undertake. Would that seriously not influence your opinion of his character?

        Sure. I’d be amazingly impressed if he turned 18, left home and went to a strange country where he knows the language, but not the customs. A dangerous country. With little or no support system and then crawled his way back in legally.

        The point is, he intentionally didn’t disclose information he knew would disqualify him from consideration and did so for personal gain.


  2. California has no ethics — from Hollywood to the behavior of its governors and state representatives. It also has no courage: spending money it doesn’t have because a lot of wealthy liberals weakened immigration laws so they could get cheap (undocumented) “house workers?” Why would anyone expect the Bar to be any different?

    • We might also ask to what extent the attitudes of the California “legal community” have impinged on the ethics of its government overall. Might it be that it’s a reflection of the Bar itself- instead of the other way around? If so, this may just be a matter of the Bar “coming out of the closet” in what they’ve been advocating among themselves all along. And that attitude, in turn, reflects a contempt for the very process they’re professionally sworn to defend.

      It’s against the law for an alien to reside here illegally. It’s both illegal and immoral for an illegal alien to help himself to the benefits that American citizens pay for. Pers0nally, I wouldn’t allow anyone who’s gained a law degree by such fraudulent means to ever practice law anywhere in this country. His degree is the equivalent of stolen property.

  3. Pingback: Ethics Dunce: The California State Bar | Ethics Alarms « The Leslie Brodie Report

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