Raffaelli v. Committee of Bar Examiners (1972)

7 Cal.3d 288, 496 P.2d 1264; 101 Cal.Rptr. 896; 53 A.L.R.3d 1149

[S.F. No. 22841. Supreme Court of California. May 24, 1972.]

PAOLO RAFFAELLI, Petitioner, v.


Petitioner, who had been denied admission to practice law on the sole ground that he was not a citizen, as called for by Bus. & Prof. Code, 6060, subd. (a), brought proceedings in the Supreme Court to compel the State Bar to certify him for admission to practice. Although he sought mandamus, the court treated his petition as one for a writ of review, under Rules of Court, rule 59(b).

Noting that alienage is a suspect classification, the court concluded that, as applied in the statute, the classification did not comply with the rule under which such a classification must, for validity, promote a compelling interest which justifies the law, and be necessary to further the purposes of that law. Accordingly, the court held that the statutory provision is void as offending the equal protection clauses of the United States and California Constitutions, and ordered the State Bar to determine whether petitioner is of good character, within the meaning of Bus. & Prof. Code, 6060, subd. (c), and, if determined so to be, to certify him for admission.

In Bank. (Opinion by Mosk, J., with Wright, C. J., McComb, Peters, Burke and Sullivan, JJ., concurring.)


Paolo Raffaelli, in pro. per., for Petitioner.

Kenneth D. McCloskey for Respondents.



By this application for original writ, petitioner Paolo Raffaelli seeks to compel respondent Committee of Bar Examiners to certify him to this court for admission to the practice of law.

The sole ground upon which respondent has refused to certify petitioner [7 Cal.3d 288, page 291] is that he is not a citizen of the United States. The question for decision, accordingly, is whether the statutory exclusion of aliens from the practice of law in this state (Bus. & Prof. Code, 6060, subd. (a)) constitutes a denial of equal protection of the law (U.S. Const., 14th Amend.; Cal. Const., art. I, 11, 21). In the light of modern decisions safeguarding the rights of those among us who are not citizens of the United States, the exclusion appears constitutionally indefensible. It is the lingering vestige of a xenophobic attitude which, as we shall see, also once restricted membership in our bar to persons who were both "male" and "white." It should now be allowed to join those anachronistic classifications among the crumbled pedestals of history.

Petitioner is a 36-year-old native-born citizen of the Republic of Italy. In 1959 he entered the United States as an exchange visitor. At the completion of the exchange program he returned to Italy for a brief period, then reentered the United States on August 14, 1961. On that date, he avers, he took up residence in California with the intention of abandoning his foreign domicile and establishing his permanent home here. Admitted as a foreign student, petitioner was thereafter authorized to remain in the United States until his education was completed.

Petitioner entered San Jose State College, and graduated in June 1966 with a bachelor's degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. He was then admitted to the School of Law of the University of Santa Clara, and graduated with a law degree in June 1969. In September 1969 he took and passed the California Bar Examination.

Since that time petitioner has been employed as a law clerk by a California law firm, and has married an American citizen. By reason of that marriage he was granted the status of permanent resident alien on September 5, 1971, and will be eligible for naturalization in September 1974.



The sole basis for respondent's refusal to certify petitioner to this court is Business and Professions Code section 6060, which provides in subdivision (a) that among the requirements for admission to the California State Bar an applicant must "Be a citizen of the United States."[1]