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Monday, January 06, 2014

Law - Two stories on law graduates and admission to the bar

On Jan. 2nd the NY Times published this story by Jennifer Medina headed "Allowed to Join the Bar, but Not to Take a Job." The summary: "A 36-year-old brought to the country from Mexico as a child can be admitted to the state bar, the California Supreme Court said. But, under federal law, no law firm can legally hire him." The story begins:

LOS ANGELES — As a teenager in Northern California, Sergio Garcia worked in the almond fields and in a grocery store, earning his way through college and then law school. He passed the California bar exam on his first try, something just half of all candidates do.

But when it came time to apply for his law license, Mr. Garcia encountered a formidable hurdle: Because he had come from Mexico illegally, he could not become a lawyer.

That changed Thursday when the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a law passed last fall by the Legislature allowed Mr. Garcia, 36, to be admitted to the state bar and practice law. What it did not do is address the fact that under federal law, no law firm, business or public agency can legally hire him. * * *

Mr. Garcia, in a telephone interview, said he felt that despite the ambiguities, he would be free to open his own practice. “I can finally fulfill my dream and also leave behind a legacy so that an undocumented student 20 or 30 years from now will take it for granted that they can be an attorney,” he said. “There’s a lot to celebrate. I can open my own law firm, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. There’s no law in this country restricting entrepreneurs.”

On another note, this weekend this story from Brett Barrouquere of the AP appeared in a number of papers. The headline: "Sex offender seeks admission to Kentucky bar." Some quotes from the long story:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Guy Padraic Hamilton-Smith graduated in the top third of his law school class at the University of Kentucky, but the state Supreme Court blocked him from taking the bar exam because he is a registered sex offender.

In the first case of its kind in Kentucky, the court rejected Hamilton-Smith's bid and a move by the state Office of Bar Admissions to create and endorse a blanket rule that would have kept all registered sex offenders from gaining access to the bar.

"Rather, we believe the better course would be to allow any applicant for bar admission who is on the sex offender registry the opportunity to make his or her case on an individualized basis," Chief Justice John D. Minton wrote in the Dec. 19 opinion on Hamilton-Smith's case and the proposed rule.

Hamilton-Smith, who was convicted of a charge related to child pornography in 2007, has until Jan. 13 to ask the court to reconsider its decision. * * *

The Kentucky case brings up the question of how to treat someone who has admitted to criminal activity, wants to rehabilitate himself and serve others, but is still monitored by law enforcement, said Hamilton-Smith's attorney, Scott White, of Lexington.

"It's a highly stigmatized thing," White said.

Hamilton-Smith pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a child in March 2007. He received a five-year prison sentence, which was suspended, and was required to register as a sex offender for 20 years - until 2027. * * *

White called Hamilton-Smith "a classic sex addict."

"The classic example is somebody who just downloads buckets of pornography," White said. "In that download, there just happened to be child pornography."

In this case, Hamilton-Smith has gone through Sex Addicts Anonymous, despite a few admitted relapses with adult, but not child, pornography, White said.

White also said his client used law school as a redemptive and rehabilitative effort while owning up to his criminal conduct.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 6, 2014 12:53 PM
Posted to Courts in general