Florida Bar: Undocumented Immigrant Otherwise Qualified to be Lawyer

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida


The Florida Bar has found no "good moral character and fitness issues" that would disqualify an undocumented immigrant from being admitted to practice law in Florida, but is still waiting for an opinion from the Florida Supreme Court before making a decision.

In a court filing on Tuesday, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners notified the Supreme Court that it determined last month that there were no such character issues that would automatically disqualify Jose Godinez-Samperio from practicing law, though it cautioned that it's possible, though unlikely, something could still come to light.

But, the board also notified lawyers representing Godinez-Samperio that a final decision will wait until the state Supreme Court weighs in.

"It is anticipated that you will be notified of the board's final action after the Supreme Court decision on the pending Request for Advisory Opinion" the Bar board said in its letter to Godinez-Samperio's main lawyer, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte back on July 20. "If additional adverse information is received, the board will reopen its investigation."

The letter was made public when it was sent Tuesday to the Supreme Court to be added to the record in the case.

Initially, the Bar had denied Godinez-Samperio's application to the Bar, even though he graduated from a Florida law school and passed the Bar exam.

In another filing Tuesday, the Board of Bar Examiners also acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's recently announced change in policy regarding children brought to the country illegally likely has some bearing on the issue.

The Obama Administration announced in June that immigrants under 30 who arrived in the country as children, who otherwise have no criminal history and who have served in the military or graduated from high school, would be allowed to remain in the country and work.

That would appear to apply to Godinez-Samperio, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico on a visitors' visa when he was 9. His parents overstayed their visas and the family never returned, his veterinarian father becoming a farm hand and his mother, a dentist, working in a factory. He grew up in the Tampa area.

After the recent change in policy by Homeland Security, Godinez-Samperio filed a motion asking that that new policy be taken into account.

In its filing on Tuesday, the Board of Bar Examiners acknowledged that the Homeland Security policy change was "relevant to the case at hand," though it also said that Godinez-Samperio's lawyers went against court rules in his motion, making arguments on why the new Homeland Security position should be taken into account, when appellate procedure rules prohibit such arguments.

The Supreme Court has given no timeline for when it might offer an advisory opinion in the case.

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