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Scott signs bill allowing Tampa Bay-area man to get law license

Published: May 13, 2014

A Tampa Bay man, brought to the United States as a child from Mexico and now here unlawfully, will be eligible to get his law license under a new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.

Jose Godinez-Samperio, a 27-year-old Largo resident, has been trying to get his state law license since passing the bar exam in 2011.

He came with his parents on tourist visas when he was 9 and remained in the country after the visas expired. Godinez-Samperio’s immigration status kept him from being licensed.

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners sought the advice of the state’s Supreme Court, which said lawmakers could pass a law to allow someone in his position to get a law license, overriding a federal prohibition.

Godinez-Samperio never sought citizenship, he said, because he would have had to return to Mexico and stay there for years before being eligible.

The new law requires non-citizens seeking to become Florida lawyers to have been brought to the United States as a minor and to have lived here at least 10 years.

It also mandates having work authorization, a Social Security number and being registered with Selective Service. Godinez-Samperio has said he meets all those requirements.

He graduated with honors from Florida State University’s law school, was an Eagle Scout and was his high school’s valedictorian. He now works as a paralegal in Clearwater.