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April 15, 2014
Senate may act in case of unauthorized law grad who was denied admission to the Bar

There may be good news for José Manual Godinez-Samperio from the Florida Legislature.

Godinez-Samperio is the unauthorized immigrant who is trying to become a member of The Florida Bar after graduating from law school with honors and passing the bar exam in 2011. On March 6, the Florida Supreme Court said he could not be admitted because under federal law that would amount to awarding a public benefit to an “unlawfully present alien” and that could only be done if the Legislature passed a statute opting out of the federal law.

 José Manual Godinez-Samperio José Manual Godinez-Samperio and his attorney, Sandy D’Alemberte, were at a March 25 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hoping they could tack an amendment opting out of the federal law on a bill dealing with the state’s criminal unlicensed practice of law statute.

However, that bill wound up being tabled, but not before the committee chair, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and vice chair, Sen. Darren Soto, D- Kissimmee, took notice of D’Alemberte in the audience, acknowledged his cause, and offered some hope.

Soto said he had an amendment for the bill but was withdrawing it. But he added that fellow committee members, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, “have said they will address this at another juncture” in the legislative session.

Lee thanked D’Alemberte for his efforts, saying, “I wish there were more people in the Legislature who had your statesman’s view of the world.”

[Revised: 09-15-2014]