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LatinoJustice and DREAM Bar Association File Brief in Support of Proposed Utah Supreme Court Bar Admission Rule Change to Allow DACA and TPS Law School Graduates to Receive Law License

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LatinoJustice and DREAM Bar Association File Brief in Support of Proposed Utah Supreme Court Bar Admission Rule Change to Allow DACA and TPS Law School Graduates to Receive Law License

Location: 
New York, New York

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org, 212-739-7581

LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Snell & Wilmer, L.L.P. have filed an amicus brief with the Utah Supreme Court supporting a petition by two dacamented lawyers seeking a new bar admission rule that would permit DACA and TPS law graduates to apply for Utah law licenses. The amicus ‘friend of the court” brief was joined by the DREAM Bar Association, and eight lawyers from New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and California many of whom received DACA and TPS, including former LatinoJustice client Cesar Vargas and several former LatinoJustice legal interns.

LatinoJustice’s brief urges Utah to follow California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Texas, Illinois, Nebraska and Wyoming in granting law licenses to DACA and TPS law school graduates who otherwise meet the rigorous requirements for state bar admission. The two petitioners, Mary Doe and Jane Doe who graduated from Utah law schools, are both admitted to practice law in good standing in California, and reside in Utah, request the Supreme Court to adopt a new rule that would allow undocumented law graduates who otherwise meet the Utah standards for admission to receive their state law license.

Under the Utah Constitution, the State Supreme Court has exclusive authority to determine lawyer bar admission without any legislative action. The LatinoJustice amicus urges the Utah Supreme Court to adapt and follow the precedential 2015 decision by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division Second Department granting Cesar Vargas’ application to be admitted to the NY bar. In re Vargas, 131 A.D.3d 4, 10 NYS3d 579 (2015). The Vargas decision held that the state judiciary as a co-equal branch of government may exercise its authority as the state sovereign to opt out of federal restrictions to the extent those restrictions apply to the practice of law in New York. The New York Court affirmatively answered the basic question before it that Vargas’s dacamented status did not prevent him from fulfilling the rigorous “character and fitness” requirements to practice law in New York. The court ruled conclusively:

“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.” 
 
LatinoJustice who served as Mr. Vargas’ counsel in his successful bar application has also represented, assisted, supported, and advocated for other undocumented law graduates to be admitted in Florida, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, including the amici lawyers who joined the brief.

To elaborate on the importance of supporting the proposed rule, eight lawyers admitted in different state bars across the country many of whom had also received DACA and TPS joined the amicus. Their respective stories highlighted in the brief reflects the many obstacles they each had to overcome to become admitted attorneys and demonstrates the many positive results and economic benefits after each received their respective state law license.  

“I support the Utah Supreme Court rule change because only nativist, exclusionary reasoning can justify barring DACA and TPS law graduates from practicing law in Utah or other states. The rule change would permit law graduates who are authorized to work and already cleared background checks by the Department of Homeland Security, persevered through several socioeconomic and cultural barriers to graduate high school, college, and law school to practice law. There are so few of us across the country, let alone in the State of Utah, who meet such stringent criteria. Their exclusion from the practice of law will only undercut the thousands of dollars invested in them by the public,” said Marisol Conde- Hernández, Esq., a Rutgers law graduate and former LatinoJustice legal intern and first Latina dacamented lawyer admitted in New Jersey.

“Real people, productive members of our society, continue to be affected by Congress’ failure to reform our broken immigration system. A Utah Supreme Court rule change permitting DACA/TPS law graduates with employment authorization to take the bar exam and be admitted will allow Utah to retain bright, hardworking graduates that contribute to Utah economically and socially. Utah’s economy and labor supply should not be affected by Congress’ failure to fix our immigration system,” said Kelsey C. Burke, a former LatinoJustice client and legal intern while attending Florida A&M Law School who was admitted to the Florida bar and is a TPS recipient.

“LatinoJustice urges the Utah Supreme Court to exercise its exclusive authority in determining who is fit to practice law within Utah and grant the Jane & Mary Doe petition for a new bar admission rule allowing undocumented law graduates to receive their state law license.” said Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF who had also represented Cesar Vargas.

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LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education.

Background Documents

  1. Amicus Filed to Utah Supreme Court supporting Professional Licenses for DACA and TPS Law Graduates
  2. Cesar Vargas Sworn in as First DACAmented Lawyer