In a landmark decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that an illegal immigrant who had passed the state’s bar exam can practice law. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.
An immigrant unable to practice law because of his undocumented status has been granted a law license by California’s highest court Thursday, NBC News reports.
Sergio Garcia took his case to the California Supreme Court in May. Oral arguments took place in September.
Garcia, a 36-year-old law school graduate who passed the state bar, told NBC News that he is "speechless, tired, relieved," and is "glad it's over."
“I couldn’t be happier,” Garcia said. “I think this is a great decision and something I worked so hard for. My dream is finally here, so I have a hard time expressing the emotions I’m going through right now.”
The ruling still doesn’t allow Garcia to work for a law firm, but he can represent individual clients.
The U.S. Department of Justice opposed allowing him a license because as an undocumented person he wasn’t allowed to receive any benefits, Garcia said in a statement. Garcia said the Court agreed with the assessment, but also stated that a law could be passed to allow him and others in his situation to be granted a law license.
A law passed seven days later allowing courts to grant a law license to an undocumented person who had met all the standard requirements. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the the bill on Oct. 5, 2013.
The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Legal experts say the ruling could have an impact on similar cases around the U.S.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles issued a statement after the ruling, saying the court's decision "bodes well for the future of the United States of America."
"The Dreams of many became much closer to becoming a reality today that the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of young professionals, like Sergio Garcia, who have met every requirement in the book to practice their craft but happen to be undocumented immigrants," the statement said.
Garcia has lived in California since 1994, according to the California Supreme Court. He received his law degree from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico in 2009. He passed the 2009 California bar examination.