Immigration Status Is Irrelevant in Most Civil Liability Cases

Keeping Cheap Defense Tactics Out of the Civil Courtroom

Earlier this summer, in late July, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1690. The bill has sailed through legislation with no official opposition, as it helps to clarify current state law and make sure than cheap tactics aren’t used in court to discredit a plaintiff.

In short, the bill makes it illegal for a defendant to inquire about a plaintiff’s immigration status if that plaintiff has brought forth a civil suit pertaining to the following:

  • Housing laws
  • Civil rights
  • Labor laws
  • Consumer protection

Undocumented Americans have always been able to bring forth civil suits, regardless of their immigration status, but this bill makes it wrongful to even inquire about it. This makes sense in a number of ways, but especially for civil trial proceedings, as the defense may try and use non-citizenship as a means to discredit the plaintiff and their civil dispute.

Something as simple as an inquiry into immigration status may erroneously impact a jury. Even if objected to and if the judge instructs the jury to disregard the line of questioning, it’s difficult for a jury to actually forget what they had heard. The truth of the matter is that it should never benefit the defense, and if anything, could be used by the plaintiff to further argue a violation of civil rights.

The bill is not an end-all-be-all, however. California, as with every state, is still at the mercy of federal law. If the plaintiff’s immigration status is vital for compliance with federal law, and if the defense can show definitive evidence of this, then it may be inquired about and possibly admitted in court.

If you believe something as trivial as immigration status has held you back from pursuing a civil suit against an employer, we want to help. Call our Los Angeles employment lawyer today to stand on the correct side of justice.