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Tampa immigrant moves step closer to Bar admission


Jose Gomprez-Samperio, the Tampa man seeking admission to the Florida Bar even though he's not an American citizen, has moved one step closer to realizing his dream. An administrative board that screens all applicants for bar admission has ruled that he is of sound character to practice law. 

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners has notified the Florida Supreme Court of its decision reached at a meeting last weekend that "nothing presently contained in the investigation file will, in and of itself, be considered disqualifying." That double-negative phrasing may not sound significant, but it is especially welcome news to Gomprez-Samperio, an FSU law school graduate who was valedictorian of his senior class at Armwood High in Tampa. 

In an accompanying notice, the board's general counsel, Robert Blythe, wrote: "While this present matter before the Court does not involve Mr. Godinez-Samperio's bar application directly, this supplemental authority is pertinent in that the status of the board's processing Mr. Godinez-Samperio's bar application has been a topic addressed in previous pleadings in the Court."

In Florida, the admission of attorneys to practice law is a judicial responsibility, and the 15-member Board of Bar Examiners screens all candidates for bar admission on character and fitness issues. Applicants must submit proof of good moral character and must pass the bar exam to practice law.

Godinez-Samperio's request for bar admission has been before the state Supreme Court since October. At issue is whether a license to practice law is considered a "public benefit," which a federal law bars undocumented immigrants from receiving.  In the past few months, Godinez-Samperio has received a Social Security card, Florida driver's license and federal approval for a work permit.

-- Steve Bousquet