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Undocumented immigrant's quest for Florida law license continues

Last year we wrote a post about a man living in Florida who after completing law school, took, and passed the Florida bar exam. Despite his passing score, he has thus far not been sworn in as a lawyer. The reason for this is his immigration status. The man is an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States a child. In this post we provide an update on the matter.

Since our last post the man, who met requirements for “deferred action,” has obtained a work permit and the matter of him obtaining a law license from the state of Florida has been under consideration by the state Supreme Court. If the man succeeds in his quest, it could impact individuals living in Florida who find themselves in similar situations in the future. This is because the man’s attorney submitted a petition to amend the Bar rules to the Florida bar, as well.

The petition seeks to change the Bar rules to include the following language: “no one may be disqualified from membership in The Florida Bar solely because he or she is not a United States citizen.” While the Bar’s Board of Governors indicates it supports the concept, it believes it should be a part of the admission rules, not the rules governing the practice of law, placing the amendment in the hands of the state’s high court. The Rules Committee of the Bar also agreed, supporting the petition in a 6-1 vote.

A change to the rules of admission would align the treatment of undocumented immigrants in state licensing of the practice of law, with other professional licenses currently provided by the state. It would also provide a workaround the position articulated by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year which opposed professional licenses being provided to undocumented immigrants. The proposed changes would make it clear that the Florida Supreme Court that is responsible for regulating lawyers in the state, not the federal government.

This situation illustrates how it may be possible to find creative ways to address immigration issues. Perhaps not surprisingly if he is granted a license to practice law in the state of Florida, the man in this case hopes to practice immigration law. We will continue to provide updates on this matter as they become available.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal, “Florida Bar supports undocumented immigrant’s path to admission,” Margie Menzel, July 29, 2013