Legal Ethics

Undocumented Law Grad Can't Get Driver's License, But Hopes for Fla. Supreme Court OK of Law License

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José Godínez-Samperio can’t get a Florida driver’s license because he is an undocumented immigrant, brought to this country by his parents from Mexico when he was a child.

But he hopes to get a Florida law license, having progressed from a non-English-speaking fourth grader to the valedictorian of his high school’s graduating class and earned a New College diploma and a law degree from Florida State University.

One of his law professors, former FSU president Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, is representing him in a Florida Supreme Court case to determine whether he can be licensed as an attorney in the state, after passing the bar, even though he isn’t a legal resident, the Tampa Bay Times reports. D’Alemberte, a past president of the American Bar Association, is also a former state lawmaker.

When Godinez-Samperio submitted his application, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners asked the supreme court to determine whether it should proceed.

The 25-year-old tells the newspaper he knew it would be an uphill battle to win admission to the state bar, but figured he had to try.

“Why are you going to keep a kid like that out of the bar?” said D’Alemberte, arguing that his client has made the most of a difficult situation that was thrust upon him through no fault of his own.

The Board of Bar Examiners didn’t respond to a request for comment from the newspaper. The Florida Bar has not taken a position on the case.

Related coverage: “CUNY Law Grad Reveals Undocumented Status, Fears He Can’t Practice Despite Passing NY Bar”

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