TALLAHASSEE — A closely-divided Florida Senate on Thursday championed the landmark case of Jose Godinez-Samperio, of Largo, who can’t practice law in Florida because he’s not a U.S. citizen.
On a voice vote — hours after senators rejected the idea on a 19-18 vote — a narrow majority of 14 Democrats and seven Republicans agreed to an amendment that allows the Florida Supreme Court to admit Godinez-Samperio to the Bar after he passes admission hurdles.
“We’re going to right an injustice,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. “He was not responsible for being here.”
The unrecorded voice vote added the provision to a routine courts bill (HB 755), and still requires House passage and Gov. Rick Scott’s approval. Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said he would like to find a way to help the would-be lawyer, a graduate of Florida State University law school.
Scott said in a statement that “this case demonstrates how broken our federal immigration laws are,” but did not say whether he would sign the bill.
Godinez-Samperio, 27, was born in Mexico and came to the United States with his parents when he was 9. He was valedictorian at Armwood High in Tampa, an Eagle Scout and honors student. He has a work permit, a Social Security card and a Florida driver’s license. He is here legally, though temporarily, under President Barack Obama’s 2012 deferred action program. And he has passed the bar exam and its moral character test.
But last month, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he can’t practice law unless the Legislature intervenes and makes a special exception.