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A clearly irked federal judge has dressed down the attorneys at the Georgia Department of Law for what he saw as a lackadaisical defense of the state Office of Bar Admissions. In a scathing order, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story suggested that, were it not for the potential ramifications to Georgia citizens, he might just have ruled in favor of the plaintiff. “Charitably stated, their participation in this litigation has fallen decidedly short of that which the court would expect from a body entrusted by the state to help oversee the practice of law,” Story wrote in his July 25 order. But, he added, “The Court was reluctant to enjoin the practices of a state bar, especially those implicating determinations of fitness to practice law, based upon the errant omissions of counsel.” The case in question is a pro se suit filed by Jo�o Godoy, a Brazilian immigrant who wants to practice law in Georgia. Godoy objected to a state requirement that, before he could take the bar exam, he submit documentation detailing his compliance with federal immigration laws that go beyond providing either his alien registration (known as a “green card”) or a federal certification for naturalization form. The bar admissions suit is one of seven federal suits Godoy has brought since 2004 addressing either his dispute with the bar admissions board or a separate race discrimination suit against Habersham County officials. But Story has taken seriously Godoy’s claims that immigrants seeking to take the Georgia bar may face more challenging, and possibly unconstitutional, requirements than U.S. citizens. Nor is it the first time the judge has scolded state lawyers. In March, Story issued an order chiding them for “abdication of their role in the adversarial process” after they neglected to file a formal answer or respond to Godoy’s summary judgment motion. “Instead,” the judge wrote in a March 23 order, state lawyers “appear to have operated under the assumption that their motion to dismiss had merit and would dispose of plaintiff’s claims. This assumption � was incorrect.” According to a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, state lawyers filed their motion to dismiss “in lieu of an answer” to Godoy’s complaint. By then, the admissions board had certified Godoy to take the bar exam, and state lawyers notified Story that the issue was moot. In response to Story’s March order, state lawyers filed a 20-page brief responding to Godoy’s summary judgment motion. But, as a still-irritated Story pointed out last month, they still did not file a formal answer to the suit, respond to Godoy’s statement of undisputed facts, his motion for reconsideration, or offer a reply supporting their motion for summary judgment. “Counsel for defendants is admonished that should they continue to demonstrate such apathy in litigation before this court, they can expect to meet their fair share of adverse results,” Story wrote. “In this case, however, the court recognizes that, were it to award plaintiff relief on a procedural technicality, it is the citizens of the state of Georgia, not the defendants, that would be forced to endure the most harmful consequences of the adverse ruling. The resultant potential for individuals ill-suited to the practice of law being allowed to sit for the bar exam counsels in favor of a resolution on the merits.” State attorneys have now clearly taken Story at his word. Last week�more than a year late�the state filed its formal answer and defenses to the suit, a response to Godoy’s statement of material facts and to several of the plaintiff’s motions. On Monday, state lawyers filed a second motion for summary judgment with a supporting brief. After a judicial tongue-lashing, Godoy v. The Office of Bar Admissions, No. 1:05-CV-0675 (N.D.) is back on track. R. Robin McDonald can be reached at [email protected]

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