Legal Ethics

Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Case of Undocumented Immigrant Seeking Law License


The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a controversial case concerning an undocumented immigrant seeking a law license.

In addition to other arguments he made earlier, Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio is now contending he should be admitted to practice in the state because a new immigration policy adopted by the Obama administration would make it legal for him to be in this country for two years, according to Fox News.

Justice Barbara Pariente said the policy is likely to be eliminated if Obama doesn’t win the presidential election in November, the article says. However, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told the Denver Post in an interview late Monday that he would not countermand immigration enforcement waivers under the deferred action program that are already in place if elected.

“The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased,” Romney told the newspaper. “Before those visas have expired, we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”

Godinez-Samperio has already passed the state bar exam. But because of the Florida State University law graduate’s immigration status, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners asked the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether he should be licensed.

Pariente on Tuesday compared Godinez-Samperio, 26, who was brought to this country from Mexico as a child by his parents, to an individual who has not paid his income taxes. However, she and other members of the court also talked about the possibility of a temporary or limited law license, or waiting to see whether he gets a work permit under the deferred action program, the Associated Press reports.

“He’s somebody who has done everything he’s supposed to do. He complied with every rule,” said attorney Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, who represents Godinez-Samperio, after the hearing. D’Alemberte is a past president of the American Bar Association and a former state lawmaker.

Similar cases are also pending in California and in New York.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Undocumented Law Grad Can’t Get Driver’s License, But Hopes for Fla. Supreme Court OK of Law License”

ABAJournal.com: “Despite Uncertainties, Lots of Applications Likely as ‘Deferred Action’ Immigration Program Launches”

Palm Beach Post: “Florida high court weighs noncitizen’s right to practice law in U.S.”

Reuters: “Florida weighs case of illegal immigrant who passed bar exam”

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