Immigration Law

Florida Bar supports undocumented law grad's effort to win admission


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Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio.
Photo by Doug Scaletta.

Responding to an unusual attorney petition to the Florida Supreme Court seeking to amend state bar rules to allow the admission of undocumented immigrants, governors of the Florida Bar last week expressed support for the proposal.

Organized by Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, a former ABA president and former president of Florida State University who is representing bar applicant Jose Godinez-Samperio, the petition was signed by 106 members of the state bar, including a former state governor, top judges, two former American Bar Association presidents including D’Alemberte and five former Florida Bar presidents, according to the Florida Bar News and the News Service of Florida.

Godinez-Samperio, who is in his mid-20s, passed the state bar exam, but the Florida Board of Bar Examiners has asked the state supreme court for an advisory opinion on whether he can be admitted in light of his undocumented status. D’Alemberte, a former law professor of Godinez-Samperio’s at Florida State, is arguing that there is no basis in bar rules for admission to be denied, because no valid rule has ever been adopted by the supreme court requiring proof of immigration status, an Associated Press article explains.

Bar rules require member-generated petitions for rule changes to be submitted to the state bar for comment 90 days before they are filed with the state’s top court, and the bar’s governors “support the concept” in the 106-signature petition, a spokeswoman said. However, they are recommending that the state’s top court seek input from the Board of Bar Examiners on the issue.

“Our board said that isn’t something that should be in the Florida Bar rules that govern the practice of law,” explained spokeswoman Francine Walker. “It should be in the Bar admission rules.”

Earlier last week, the bar’s rules committee voted to endorse the substance of the petition, which states that an individual should not be disqualified from practicing law in Florida solely because he or she is not a U.S. citizen.

Godinez-Samperio was brought to this country as a child by his parents and reportedly has never concealed his immigration status.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Undocumented Fla. bar applicant gets ‘deferred action’ work permit; will law license be next?”

Florida Bar News: “Are undocumented immigrants eligible for Bar admission?”

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