Tag Archive for 'license'

California Bar Ready to Admit Illegal Alien as Lawyer

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The number of jokes and stories about amoral attorneys and dishonest lawyers could fill a library. Most of these tales, however, illustrate the moral hypocrisy of a profession which claims to uphold the law but often has members which disregard and disrespect the system they say they support.

Sergio Garcia adds a fresh tome to this library of antics. Garcia is applying for a license to practice law in California. He obtained a JD (juris doctorate – a law school degree) and passed the bar exam. There’s just one small problem: Garcia isn’t suppose to be in California or the rest of the United States for that matter. Sergio Garcia is an illegal immigrant who was brought to this nation as a toddler. After leaving for a few years, he returned as a seventeen year old and attended college while working as a beekeeper with his father. Now the California Supreme Court has to decide if Garcia’s citizenship status, or lack thereof, is a deterrent to practicing law in California.

The California Bar Association (CBA) asserts that Garcia has met all requirements to receive a license to practice law in California, including passing the bar exam and the moral character test. Although Garcia is an illegal immigrant, plenty of foreign students are given licenses to practice, but those licenses are not a permit for employment. The license given to Garcia, without the citizenship status, would only allow him to work pro bono, for free as community service, or as an independent contractor.

Groups opposing the case, however, state that Garcia has already broken the law by staying here illegally. The “moral character” test he supposedly passed states that he must have respect for the law. Although seventeen year olds are still considered minors, most courts will recognize that persons of that age have the ability to recognize right from wrong. Garcia, when he illegally came back to the United States at seventeen, knowingly violated the law and has done so for years. He cannot, in good conscience, serve the legal system of this nation when he himself has and is currently violating the law.

The reason this case is considered a precedent for the future is that it questions if a student here illegally can get a license. The foreign students who were admitted are documented and have their paperwork approved. The real injustice, opposition groups would conclude, is that a certain class of people are exempt from the law because of their place of origin is in close proximity to America.

In Garcia’s defense, his application for a green card has been pending for the last eighteen years, a wait period impossibly long for any sane individual. This doesn’t excuse his rule breaking, but the application does show intent to try to comply with the complex immigration laws. Perhaps it was this intent which allowed Garcia to pass the moral character test. Garcia did pass the current moral character test, even if outside observers would demand a higher standard for the test. There are also no residency or citizenship requirements for obtaining a license. The fact is, although Garcia shouldn’t be in California and should probably be deported, he can obtain the license to practice law in the state. It is astoundingly counter-intuitive and a huge paradox, but stranger contradictions have been made in our legal system.

The real offender in this entire debacle, however, is the California Bar Association, which is strongly arguing for Garcia’s admittance. There is a substantial difference between grudgingly giving a license out based on the requirements met and zealously advocating for the admittance of a man who has broken the law. Opponents of Garcia’s admittance believe that illegal immigrants are above the law and this latest case is a plank in their platform. Some applicants to the bar are turned down because of extreme debt or bankruptcy. Other applicants are rejected for having a history of criminal felony charges, even if the entirety of that history was committed as a minor and/or non-violent, such as through California’s Three Strikes law. It would be difficult to judge the accumulation of debt, a non-violent felony history or a status as an illegal immigrant and declare that one deprives a person of moral character more than the other.

The CBA is permitted to determine what exactly a moral character is, but all these examples, non-violent felony history, extreme debt and illegal immigration status, represent the violation of a social obligation. With the former two, it is possible to get a license, but it is doubtful that the CBA would help the applicants if the application is reviewed by a court. The CBA however, is advocating for Garcia and his illegal immigrant status. Garcia may be a paradox in the American legal system, but that paradox wouldn’t have risen if the California Bar Association hadn’t entertained the idea in the beginning.

Fail to Pay Child Support, Lose Your Law License

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An interesting story from the ABA Journal (also reported here) proves once again that, in most cases, failing to pay child support is usually far more costly than just paying it in the first place.

An attorney in Kansas has had his license to practice law suspended indefinitely (meaning he’s been effectively disbarred) because he consistently failed to pay child support obligations of a little over $1,000 per month. This particular lawyer had a past record of discipline, and that didn’t exactly weigh in his favor. Still, a habitual refusal to make these payments would, in most states, be grounds for disbarment on its own. This is because all states require attorneys to demonstrate “good moral character” before they can be admitted to practice law, and conduct of “moral turpitude” can be grounds for disbarment.

This attorney, because he wanted to save about $1,000 per month, has now lost his ability to practice law – the thing he spent (at least) 3 years and thousands of dollars becoming licensed to practice. The potential future income this disbarment will cost the attorney is probably far greater than the amount of money he would have spent paying child support.

Of course, you don’t have to have a professional license at stake in order for a failure to pay child support to become extremely costly. The law views child support as one of the few financial obligations that there should be virtually no way to escape. This is because child support, as the name implies, is meant to support the children of non-custodial parents, and to ensure that each parent contributes to the child’s well-being, to the greatest extent possible. So, unless it can be shown that the non-custodial parent has virtually no income, and no additional earning potential, it will be impossible for someone to escape their child support obligations.

And the laws that allow the courts and governments to enforce this obligation give the authorities a great deal of leeway to hit the obligor where it will hurt them the most, financially. In this case, it was the obligor’s law license.

However, if you owe child support, and don’t have a professional license, such as a law license, for the state to take away, the courts still have a great deal of leverage to enforce your child support obligation, and can make your life very difficult and expensive, should you fail to meet this obligation.

For example, it’s virtually impossible to discharge child support debts in bankruptcy – which is definitely an exception to the general rule in bankruptcy that allows a person to eliminate most of their debts.

Of course, this is just the beginning. Making it difficult to legally discharge a child support obligation is a start, but the state still needs a way to actually enforce this obligation against ordinary people, who don’t have extraordinary assets that can be exploited.

With this in mind, the state has the option to garnish an employee’s wages – going directly to the employer, and deducting a percentage of their salary from their paycheck, and transferring it to the obligee (the person who is owed the money). This can make the obligor’s life very difficult, especially if they don’t make much money to begin with.

Another, perhaps slightly less burdensome, method to enforce a child support judgment is to withhold state and federal income tax refunds. The government can also put a lien on any property you own, as well.

In the end, if you have any income or assets, and have a child support obligation, the above story, and the facts I’ve just conveyed, should make it clear that the state is likely to get your child support payments out of you, one way or another.

As you might imagine, there are many, many other ways the state can get child support payments out of you. And because it’s so difficult to get out of one’s obligation to pay child support, fighting a child support judgment, unless there’s clear evidence of fraud on the part of the obligee, or a legal error on the part of the judge, is not likely to end in success, and will probably be more expensive than simply paying the obligation.

Of course, if you’re truly unable to afford a child support obligation, you can petition to have it reduced (but usually not eliminated), provided that you have evidence that it is causing you serious hardship. Courts are usually pretty reasonable when it comes to accommodating these requests.

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Why You Should Always Check Out Your Lawyers Credentials: A Moral Tale

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Being a lawyer is tough.  If you work at a big firm, you have partners breathing down your neck to bill more hours, a seemingly endless pile of mind-numbing documents to review, and a constant sinking feeling that you may be axed on any given day.  Working as a sole practitioner isn’t much better either.  You have to constantly find clients or risk going under, do all your legal research on your own, and deal with something everyone hates: getting your clients to pay for services rendered.

lying attorneyWell, one lawyer has found a way around all of this.  I can’t for the life of me understand how no one figured out before.  Robert P. Mangieri, 68, discovered a way to outsmart all us dolts wasting our time with education and training.  He found that you can just practice law without a license.  It’s so easy and obvious, how did years of attorneys not figure it out sooner?  No need to waste all that money and time on law school or endure countless hours trying to understand how that freakin’ rule against perpetuities doctrine works, just lie and say you did all that crap.  Then all you have to do is open shop, maybe hang up some fake diplomas, and start raking in the money from hapless clients who are too poor to properly check out your credentials.  And the best part is that you don’t have to do any legal research since you’re already lying about your competency or that you’re even legally able to practice law.

I can’t tell guys – was I laying the sarcasm down a little too thick in that last paragraph, or not enough?

As I mentioned in a previous post lawyers in America already have a bad enough reputation without yahoos like Mangieri screwing it up even more for us.  If he had attended law school, he would have learned that lawyers are subject to an incredible number of rules on ethical lawyering, which cover everything from proper notice to guidelines on fees.  Though chances are as a fake lawyer, he probably already knew some of these and chose to ignore them.

Do any of Mangieri’s former clients have a legal recourse against him?  You better believe they do.  Not only is the would-be lawyer being subjected to criminal punishments including grand larceny, impersonating an attorney, and conspiracy to defraud (all of which carry an incredibly light sentence of 4 years – way to deter people federal government!), but he’ll also be open-season to a plethora of tort claims.  The most obvious being fraud and maybe malpractice, but since he’s not officially a lawyer that latter one might not be so obvious.  Though as the saying goes, you can’t get blood from a turnip.  Despite Mangieri duping people into paying him money for services he wasn’t qualified to render, most of his clients weren’t very wealth themselves so Mangieri himself might not be worth so much.

But don’t let Mangieri’s tale fool you into thinking all lawyers are shysters.  Though you should always be sure of your lawyers credentials, according to the latest LegalMatch statistics attorney malpractice cases are among the lowest received.  So don’t be scared to hire a lawyer, just make sure they are actually lawyers first…

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