Clearwater Employment Law Attorney, Tony Viera, of Carlson, Meissner, Hart and Hayslett, P.A., Expresses Dismay for Recent Florida Supreme Court Ruling

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License to Practice Law in Florida Denied to Immigrant Receives Unfavorable Reception from Fellow Lawyers

Tony Viera, attorney with the law offices of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A.

Public opinion is squarely on the side of Mr. Godinez-Sampiero in this case, however, it is up to the state or federal government to determine whether or not to change the laws in place to put an end to this exclusionary policy.

On March 6, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Tampa immigrant Jose Godinez-Samperio cannot practice law in Florida because he is not legally a U.S. citizen. In their decision, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times, the justices ruled against Godinez-Samperio, but also expressed a desire to see the existing legislation, currently prohibiting him from being admitted to the Florida Bar, changed or reversed.

“Public opinion is squarely on the side of Mr. Godinez-Sampiero in this case,” explained Tony Viera, a highly-regarded employment law attorney with the prestigious Tampa Bay law firm of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. “However, it is up to the state or federal government to determine whether or not to change the laws in place to put an end to this exclusionary policy.”

The ruling sets a challenging precedent for other immigrants seeking similar opportunities, but the situation could be changed if new laws were introduced on a state or federal level. In their decision, the justices wrote, "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.”

While Godinez-Sampiero and others were disappointed in the ruling, they were more disgruntled with Congress and the Obama administration, who they believe have failed to take sufficient action with regard to immigration reform. The President’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has enabled Godinez-Sampiero to reside in the United States legally, receiving a Social Security number, work permit and driver’s license, but he still does not qualify as a documented citizen. According to the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), passed in 1996, immigrants who are not citizens are ineligible to receive state public benefits, including a license to practice law.

Godinez-Sampiero’s attorney, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, is seeking out the assistance of Florida legislators, including Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, to help support in changing the existing laws. The University of Miami Law Review reports that the PRWORA does “allow that state governments can affirmatively provide undocumented immigrants with professional licenses via the enactment of a law.” At the beginning of 2014, California legislature changed their laws to permit undocumented immigrant Sergio Garcia to obtain a law license under similar circumstances. In the meantime, Godinez-Sampiero will continue to serve as a paralegal in Tampa, while awaiting an opportunity to practice law in the state he calls home.

About Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett , P.A.
The law firm of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett P.A. was founded in 1971 by attorneys Ed Carlson and Paul Meissner. For more than four decades, they have been committed to protecting the injured and defending the accused. Their attorneys have established a solid reputation of case success throughout Florida, providing strong legal representation, easy accessibility and a high level of dependability. A client-centered approach ensures that clients know what is happening as their case progresses, and understand their options every step of the way. With a focus on personal injury, they help victims of auto accidents, slip and falls and wrongful death accidents. The firm is well-known for their innovative criminal and DUI defense work, defending both local and high-profile clients. Attorney and Partner Kevin Hayslett is widely recognized as The Attorney to the Stars, providing strong legal representation for notable celebrities and dignitaries throughout Florida. The firm also handles social security disability, workers compensation, divorce, family law and immigration cases. They offer free initial consultations and have five convenient Tampa Bay Area locations. Attorneys are available 24/7 for emergencies. Count on the legal team of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. to be there, fighting for you, protecting your rights. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 877-728-9653 or visit their website

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MaryAnn Bounacos

Mary Ann Bounacos
since: 07/2009
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