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New York immigrant becomes first licensed lawyer in the state after ruling

Thursday, 04 June 2015

Cesar Vargas was born in Mexico, and he immigrated to the United States without documentation when he was 5. The 31-year-old graduated from City University of New York Law School in 2011 and then passed the bar, but when he applied to join the New York bar he was declined due to his immigration status.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of New York’s appellate division reversed that decision because they found he satisfies all the eligibility and personality requirements necessary to be a lawyer in New York.

It is also important to note that  Vargas is now authorized to stay in the United States thanks to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

The decision says that despite Vargas having “stellar character,” the previous court recommended he not be admitted to the bar because of his status.

The decision says that the court rules that barring him from becoming a licensed lawyer because of his immigration status “unconstitutionally infringes on the sovereign authority of the state to divide power among its three coequal branches of government.” The decision goes on to say that the judicial branch in New York has the power to grant professional licenses to be a lawyer, and based on that information, Vargas appropriately satisfies the standard of good character and general fitness to practice law.

Beyond deciding on Vargas’ ability to become a licensed lawyer in New York, the court issued a ruling on if immigration status can impact applications to join the bar.

We find that the undocumented status of an individual applicant does not, alone, suggest that the applicant is not possessed of the qualities that enable attorneys to vigorously defend their client’s interests within the bounds of the law, nor does it suggest that the applicant cannot protect, as an officer of the court, the rule of law and the administration of justice. Toward that end, we note that the states of California and Florida have enacted statutes which specifically authorize the admission of certain persons without lawful immigration status to the practice of law provided they otherwise meet the eligibility standards for admission. Our sister states have thereby determined that the absence of lawful immigration status does not, per se, adversely reflect on the character and fitness of a person for admission to the practice of law.

Source: Fox CT

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