A Tale of Two Judiciaries

Even at the best of times, the law is a strange and wondrous thing. At its worst, it more closely approximates the description given it by Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that … then the law is a ass, a idiot!”

Some weeks ago, the California Supreme Court, through a classic piece of legal legerdemain, declared that it was perfectly acceptable for an illegal alien to be enrolled as an attorney in the California State Bar — a prerequisite to actually practicing law before the various courts in that state. Many observers offered their opinions on this decision, yours truly among them.

On that particular development, my views tended to pretty much coincide with Mr. Bumble’s. It is a bizarre place in which an individual who exhibits his contempt for the law every day by his very existence in a country where he has no right to remain is given the right to practice law. One wonders how long it will be before illegal aliens attempt to run for office in California, and whether or not the California Supreme Court will find some unique way to justify it through specious reasoning.

Fortunately, we now have on record another state judiciary that has exercised a bit more moderation and — dare I say it? — at least a modicum of common sense in determining that aliens illegally in the United States have no business practicing law. That would be the Florida Supreme Court.

Quite some time ago, Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio, an illegal alien born in Mexico who had graduated from a Florida law school, sought to be admitted to the bar. Before permitting it, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners solicited an opinion from the high court by means of a “discharge petition”. A year ago, the Court ruled that aliens illegally in the country could not be admitted.

Yet that wasn’t the end of the story, because the court was only ruling on the general proposition on admission of illegal aliens to the Florida bar (the hypothetically hypothetical notion, so to speak), even though everyone understood that the opinion was requested because of Godinez-Samperio. That left the actual request for admission (and denial pursuant to the court’s original finding) to work its way through the Florida courts. That has now happened.

But, even in this instance, the Court bought itself wiggle room, asserting that it is the prerogative of the Florida legislature to change the legal bases by which individuals can practice law in the state. According to news reports, several state legislators immediately began agitating to amend Florida’s laws governing admission to the bar. That’s unfortunate. Maybe we should let illegal aliens run for office: perhaps that hot breath on the backs of American legislators will be what it takes before they come to their senses.

Ask yourself this: what chance is there that the Congreso General de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (the Mexican Congress) will soon be taking up any statutory amendments to permit illegal foreigners to practice law in their republic? About the same as a frosty day in the seventh circle, I’d say.

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