Texas Appellate Court Revives Attorney Sonnenschein’s Suit Against Bar Board

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Attorney Alexander Sonnenschein gets a second chance in court to challenge the Texas State Bar Board's decision over his application.

In a significant legal development, the Texas appellate court has breathed new life into attorney Alexander Sonnenschein’s battle against the Texas Board of Law Examiners. This decision paves the way for Sonnenschein to refile his claims, challenging the board’s denial of his application to join the state’s bar without examination, a case that raises important questions about equal protection and constitutional rights.

A Legal Challenge Rooted in Equality

Sonnenschein’s legal contention revolves around an alleged unfair application of the Texas State Bar’s admission rules. Having graduated from an online-based California law school, Sonnenschein, who is white, argues that he has been treated differently compared to a similarly situated white male admitted to the bar in 2017 from a comparable California school. This claim of unequal treatment underpins Sonnenschein’s pursuit of justice.

The Appellate Court’s Interpretation: A Door Reopened

The appellate panel’s decision to grant Sonnenschein a second chance is grounded in the belief that his claims do not inherently lack jurisdictional basis. Contradicting the board’s stance, the court posits that the mere existence of a rule doesn’t automatically invalidate an equal protection claim. This perspective highlights a nuanced understanding of the law, suggesting that the application of rules must be consistent and non-discriminatory.

Sonnenschein’s Journey: From California to Texas

Sonnenschein’s legal journey began with a law degree from Northwestern California University School of Law in 2012, followed by his successful passing of the California bar. Relocating to Texas in 2018, he engaged in pro bono work through a Texas State Bar authorized program, despite not being admitted to the Texas State Bar.

The Quest for Recognition and Admission

In his lawsuit, Sonnenschein seeks not only admission to the Texas State Bar but also a broader recognition of graduates from non-state accredited law schools like his alma mater. This case transcends personal grievances, touching upon the broader themes of educational equity and professional recognition in the legal field.

Allegations of Discrimination: An Interracial Marriage in Focus

Adding complexity to the case, Sonnenschein alleges discrimination based on his interracial marriage, a claim he argued in front of the board along with his wife, who is Black. While the appellate court found his current allegations insufficiently substantiated, it left the door open for a more robust pleading.

Legal Representation and the Path Ahead

As Sonnenschein represents himself in this renewed legal challenge, the Texas Board of Law Examiners stands represented by Karen L. Watkins from the Texas Office of the Attorney General. This case, Alexander Sonnenschein vs. Augustin Rivera, Jr. et al., case number 03-21-00602-CV in the Texas Third District Court of Appeals, remains a closely watched legal episode, with implications for admission standards and equality within the legal profession.