In a long-anticipated decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Tampa immigrant and FSU law school graduate Jose Godinez-Samperio cannot be admitted to the Florida Bar.
But the court called on the Florida Legislature to intervene quickly to correct what it called an "injustice." When a similar set of circumstances occurred in California, that state's Legislature changed the law to allow non-citizens to become members of the Bar.
"The Florida Legislature is in the unique position to act on this integral policy question and remedy the inequities that the unfortunate decision of this Court will bring to bear," the justices wrote.
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners had asked the state's high court for an advisory opinion on the question. The court concluded that an immigrant's legal status is determined solely by federal law, and a 1996 federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving certain state "public benefits," including a professional license — in this case, to practice law — issued by an agency that receives state money, in this case, the Florida Supreme Court.