What if Your Attorney Is an Illegal Alien?
Here's a hypothetical. Sometime after October 1, 2022, a civil bench trial (no jury) is taking place in state district court in Albuquerque. The judge will decide both the facts and the law. The only people in the courtroom are the judge; the court reporter; the bailiff; the plaintiff; the plaintiff's attorney, Mr. X; the defendant; and the defendant's attorney, Ms. Y. It's a routine creditor-debtor dispute, where the plaintiff is asserting that the defendant breached a contract and owes him money. One day has been allotted for the trial.
It's just before noon, and attorney Mr. X is almost done with presenting his client's case. Two armed men in uniform enter the courtroom and sit in the spectator seating section. The judge notices the visitors, makes a motion to the court reporter to stop transcribing, and asks: "Gentlemen, may I help you?" One man rises and says: "Your honor, we are from ICE. We have an arrest warrant for Ms. Y." The man then sits back down.
The trial resumes. At noon, the judge orders a lunch break and says the trial will resume at 1:30. After the judge leaves the courtroom, Ms. Y is handcuffed by the ICE officers and led away.
At 1:30, everyone is back in the courtroom except for attorney Ms. Y. The defendant rises and says: "Your honor, my attorney was just arrested by ICE. She apparently is an illegal alien. May I have a continuance?"
The judge commiserates with the defendant but says that it would not be fair to the plaintiff to grant a continuance, especially since it was foreseeable that an illegal alien attorney could be arrested at any time. The now pro se defendant does his best to represent himself, and the judge bends over backward to be fair — but the defendant is no match for the plaintiff, who has competent counsel. A substantial judgment is awarded to the plaintiff. The judge recommends to the defendant that he immediately seek the services of a malpractice attorney.
Far-fetched? Hardly. There are currently eight states where illegal aliens can practice law (CA, CT, FL, IL, NE, NJ, NY, and WY). Joining this dubious list on October 1 will be New Mexico.
There are federal civil and criminal penalties for knowingly employing an illegal alien. Here is the statute. 8 USC 1324 (a)(4) provides for civil penalties and section (f) for criminal penalties. So the Supreme Courts of these states are actively aiding and abetting the commission of a federal crime.
Let this sink in. The Supreme Courts of nine states know that it is against the law for an illegal alien to be present in and work in the United States, but they are saying, "We don't care." So much for the rule of law in general and the Supremacy Clause in particular.
In New Mexico, this change was done, more or less, in the middle of the night with no legislative input. Back in 2018, the N.M. Supreme Court asked for public comment about permitting illegal aliens to practice law. There was then no public news on the subject until several days ago, when the Court simply announced that illegals would be permitted to practice law effective October 1. All five justices on the N.M. Supreme Court are Democrats. The last time Republicans held a majority on the Court was in the 1920s.
Can the public fight back against these courts, who are legislating from the bench and giving the middle finger to federal immigration laws? Here are some thoughts.
1. There are all kinds of legal issues involved with letting illegal aliens work for law firms. What if a new lawyer applying to a firm fails to disclose or lies about being an illegal? It would be prudent for an E-Verify to be done for all new attorney hires in the nine states.
2. Clients can fight back. Corporate clients have tremendous leverage over law firms because they spend so much money and can easily take their business elsewhere. What is to prevent a corporate client retaining a law firm in one of the nine states from demanding that no illegal alien attorney will be permitted to work on any of the client's files? Give the agreement some teeth. Have a liquidated damages clause in the attorney-client fee agreement in the event of breach.
3. Individuals seeking legal counsel are not going to have the leverage of large businesses but can still do their due diligence before hiring an attorney. The lawyer rating service Martidale Hubbell has been around for over one hundred years and is a good starting point. If you are retaining counsel in one of the nine states, be up front in the initial interview and say you don't want to hire an illegal alien attorney. If you still have questions, ask to see a copy of the attorney's malpractice insurance policy. If he doesn't have any malpractice insurance, you should run.
4. One of the most powerful unseen forces in the legal field is the insurance industry, which writes attorney malpractice policies. If an attorney can't get malpractice insurance, he has no business practicing law. There are only a handful of companies who write these policies, and they have very stringent underwriting standards. These companies may decide that providing malpractice insurance for illegal alien attorneys is simply not worth the hassle. If they do, illegal alien attorneys will never be more than a fringe element of the bar.
In the above-listed nine states, we are seeing the woke agenda destroy what should be one of our most respected institutions. These nine state Supreme Courts no longer merit our respect. We need to fight back before the rot spreads to even more states. I look forward to the day that federal subpoenas are served on the clerks of these courts demanding the identity of the illegal aliens to whom law licenses have been granted.
Image via Flickr, public domain.