Columns

Florida Supremes Closer to Diana Ross Than Justice Harry Lee Anstead

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 7, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

If anyone finds the Florida Supreme Court's spine lying around, please give me a call. I'm too busy myself looking for the justices' sense of decency.

And please don't anyone tell me, as Justice Jorge Labarga did, that Jose Godinez-Samperio is a matter for the Florida Legislature.

I had to read Thursday's Supreme Court decision three times because I didn't believe all seven justices would deny this young man a license to practice law in Florida for no other reason than he's an illegal immigrant, brought to this country from Mexico at the age of 9.

What are we doing here, people?

Jose Godinez-Samperio

Jose Godinez-Samperio

Why do we still debate legalizing the status of people who are here not of their own accord, who are American in every way except on paper, and who have demonstrated they will be productive members of society? For heaven's sake, when his parents brought him into this country, Godinez-Samperio was in the fourth-grade.

And he did everything right, too -- excelled in high school, excelled in law school, passed the Bar, volunteered for all sorts of public service, you name it. There isn't a blemish on his record. In fact, so impeccable is his character that no less than Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, who taught him at Florida State University, put his life aside temporarily to represent him.

Talbot

Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte

D'Alemberte isn't Joe-Schmo-the-rag-man-lawyer. He is a lawyer, a professor, a former politician, former educational administrator, former president of the American Bar Association, and former president of the Florida State University. He is perhaps the pre-eminent legal statesman in Florida today.

Besides pitching to the Supreme Court twice on Godinez-Samperio's behalf, in July 2013 D'Alemberte filed a petition signed by 114 lawyers. In the petition D'Alemberte argues there's no basis in Bar rules to deny Godinez-Samperio admission, because no valid rule has ever been adopted by the Supreme Court requiring proof of immigration status.

All back to the Supremes again, right? Well, maybe.

The Bar's governors have said they "support the concept" in D'Alemberte's petition but the Supremes should get a little input from the Board of Bar Examiners.

Everybody passes the buck in High Court world.

The Supremes passed the buck to the Legislature on Thursday. But how does a law enacted in a state legislature overrule a law enacted in Washington?

And the petition is still pending -- no action on that. Why didn't justices decide on that Thursday? Maybe they think this is a TV reality show and they're scripting a cliffhanger.

The petition is sound as an iron hull, by the way. It includes the signatures of three former Supreme Court justices, two former appellate judges, former Gov. Buddy MacKay, two former American Bar Association presidents including D'Alemberte, and five former Florida Bar presidents.

The fact is, none of the justices wants to take on the federal government when, really, this is the perfect time to do it. What an opportunity it might have been. It's the Supreme Court, not the Legislature, that licenses, disciplines and regulates lawyers. Yet, not a single Supreme is saying, let's man up and tell the world, including the feds, that the judicial branch licenses Florida lawyers, not the legislative branch, and Florida doesn't care what Eric Holder says about it.

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said it well Thursday. “I believe today’s ruling epitomizes the flaws in our nation’s broken immigration system and the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.

The Legislature will act. House Speaker Will Weatherford's heart is fully engaged with the plight of the Dreamers.

But it comes straight from the mouth of the U.S. Department of Justice: federal law bars undocumented immigrants from getting professional licenses.

Everybody is waiting for the feds to get off their hands. This would have been the time for the Florida Supreme Court to call Holder's bluff. 

By the way, California just did. On Dec. 31, 2013, the California Supreme Court granted a law license to Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant, allowing him to practice law in his adopted state. Garcia was brought into the country at 17 months old.

Though the court's opinion wasn't so clear on how Garcia can use his license, the fact is this: The California Supremes did the right thing, the Florida Supremes are singing "You Can't Hurry Love."

In a note to his petition signers Thursday afternoon, D'Alemberte said this: "Obviously, today's opinion is very disappointing. Nevertheless, Jose is handling it with equanimity and remains committed to his dream of becoming a lawyer. We are working with him on next steps, including the possibility of action in the Florida Legislature."

Harry Lee Anstead

Harry Lee Anstead

This brings me to my last point -- the Florida Supreme Court's shabby treatment of Jose Godinez-Samperio since 2011 when he passed the Bar. With the exception of Labarga, who relates to all Godinez-Samperio has overcome to get to where he is today, these Supremes make me yearn for the legend among Florida chief justices, Harry Lee Anstead.

Anstead was appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles. He served the high court from 1994-2009. But the thing I want you to know about him is, he had a thing about the mounting lack of professionalism he observed in the legal profession and set out to effect a cultural change within the courts.

He is a great man, a great lawyer, and a great gentleman. He was a great judge. He controlled his courtroom. You did not misbehave when he was on the bench,

Judges controlled their courtrooms in those days when law was a profession and not a business. Lawyers controlled their partners and associates because if your word was not your bond and your manners were not decent, the news got around fast, and there were consequences.

When Anstead started the "professionalism movement," a lot of lawyers wondered what the hell was going on with the law schools and the Board of Bar Examiners and ultimately, with the Supreme Court.

Why were all these people who didn't get the behavioral basics when they were in pigtails and knee pants allowed into a line of work that, to a large extent, makes the rules that everyone has to live by? 

Why do creeps, crooks and cretins with briefcases need to be spoon-fed and schooled on the subject of basic respect and decency as if they were sixth-graders learning the box-step and which fork to use at cotillion.

Harry Lee Anstead and all he did to call our attention to "best practice practices" comes flooding back. I wonder what he thinks of the weak stomach and lack of decency -- call it a lack of professionalism -- among today's justices.

Now that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has told Godinez-Samperio, an exemplary scholar and human being, that he can't practice law, maybe he can be a victims' advocate for the legions of Floridians who have suffered financially and emotionally at the hands of bullies and bloviators with Bar cards. I'll bet that would make Justice Anstead all warm inside.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 


Comments (20)

Freeman
10:30AM MAR 8TH 2014
The GOP takes rights away from people not bestow them,,,,
Michael
8:54AM MAR 8TH 2014
Nancy Smith is herself. Even when her ire is appropiate it is directed at the wrong parties. In this case her beloved Republican Party members in the US Congress and in the Florida Legislature would be the one's that bear the responsibility for the Forida Supreme Court having to rule as it did.
Montana Healy
1:02PM MAR 7TH 2014
Thank goodness the Supreme Court finally abided by the laws of Florida and the United States of America.
Thomas
2:14PM MAR 7TH 2014
Honestly, there is a first time for everything. The law is the law. Sometimes the justices lose sight of that and just rule on what they want the law to be, not what it is.
Frank
7:20PM MAR 7TH 2014
Yes, yes, spoken like someone who must be a member of the Florida Bar, correct . . . . thought not . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Robert Dominguez
11:38AM MAR 7TH 2014
The Obama birth certificate, really? When are you going to realize that Faux, Rush, Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly are a propaganda machine funded by Koch Brothers, who's father made millions building Communist Russia's oil infrastructure during Stalin's time and they now sell our oil resources to communist China! If you support any of the above and your in the labor force, elderly retired, a student, disabled or a veteran you have "shoot yourselves in the foot syndrome" unfortunately its not covered by ACA!
Frank
11:36AM MAR 7TH 2014
Perhaps Nancy would do well to chastise her beloved GOP, both within the state and nationally, who hold some of the following opinions (and many more, much worse, available in this pot):

• "In my opinion, if we allow those who are here illegally to be put on a path to citizenship, that is incredibly unfair to those who follow the rules" [Ted Cruz]

• "My plan will not grant amnesty or move anyone to the front of the line" [Rand Paul]

• “An issue you deal with is immigration, and we want people to know if you’re here illegally, be careful . . . . But we don’t want to ruin the (citrus) industry.” [Rick Scott, who also vetoes a bill allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a driver's license that would allow them to drive to work that he "allows"]

• “Of course we do not give instate tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence” [Mitt Romney]

The GOP is the problem on immigration, not the solution . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Dean
11:37AM MAR 7TH 2014
AMEN Frank
Frank
7:30PM MAR 7TH 2014
Sigh, yes . . . . unfortunately, it's a party that allows perpetual I-just-want-a-focus-on-me Donald Trump to get applause for saying the following yesterday at CPAC:

"Of those 11 million potential voters, which will go to 30 million in the not too distant future, you will not get any of those votes . . . .You better be smart. They’re taking your jobs. You better be careful."

And that's not even taking into account hateful politics from other members of the GOP:

- "I'll do anything short of shooting them" [Mo Brooks, Alabama]

- "These illegal aliens are criminals and we need to treat as such" [Paul Broun, Georgia]

Pathetic . . . .
Dean
10:24PM MAR 7TH 2014
OoPS. Guess the change is due to my actually creating and account and giving SSN my info. Interesting, I have an option to flag the worst of the blivets
Dean
10:18PM MAR 7TH 2014
I just do not understand the motivation or the right Zingers. Your comment now has a "flag as offensive" while several commenters were rude and offensive in their responses to me. Racial slurs, offensive names, and they set you up as offensive? Totally partisan, And truly sad that freedom of speech is applied unequally. I really like you outlook and hope to see much more. Far too many commentors have drank deeply of the fox news mushroom tea. Bblessed
Raise your Right hand
11:13AM MAR 7TH 2014
Thomas, Yes we are supposed to be a nation of laws, but those laws are created by man. And, anything created by man has a tendency to become soiled as the diseases of man, greed, jealousy, narcissism, sexual perversion eat away at the souls of man that laws become tainted in favor of the wants of those sick souls.

Everyone in Florida should ask themselves what ever happened to the Florida laws on Sodomy (also called acts against nature) they disappeared from the law books! Last year when a man was making love to a goat in the Florida panhandle and another man in Ocala was making love to his donkey "doodles" there was no real sodomy laws to charge then with - so they got charged with misdemeanors. Why did these laws evaporate from the laws of Florida? Because they made the acts of two persons of the same sex against the law. But, the state of George still has it's sodomy laws!

There Thomas some perverts would tend to agree with you we are no longer a country of men we are a country of mice who let the perverts manipulate the laws of the land to keep their actions from being illegal.

Everyone always said, if you don't like the laws you should work to change them and they did.
nut jobs created by cia every minute
10:59AM MAR 7TH 2014
Dean, You nuts were not born to begin with you were hatched. If you think the American people are so freaking dumb they can't see according to Obama's fake birth certificate he was born before the race African American was coined by Thurgood Marshall (but he was title AA on the certificate and he was born in a Hospital that did not exist at the time of his birth. Plus according to that fake document his father was born in Kenya which also did not exist until 1963 a full two years after the birth of his son "JR." Yep! Everything this dude has done sine his creation has been historical, let that be "hysterical."
Dean
11:35AM MAR 7TH 2014
Wow. So sure of yourself you totally hide who you are. Brave new world. You think insulting me makes you right? You have taken a big drink of the mushroom tea that Fox gave ya. Shame on ya, except you have no shame for being rude. People who act as you just did are the reason the Republican party is in decline.
Frank
2:48PM MAR 7TH 2014
Another racist birther on SSN . . . . (or maybe, even the same one) . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Thomas
10:27AM MAR 7TH 2014
I respectfully disagree with Nancy. We are a country of laws, not men.
Detfan
7:01AM MAR 7TH 2014
So, why is this guy still illegal? If he can't get his citizenship after all these years, then screw him.
Dean
9:38AM MAR 7TH 2014
Another uninformed person. Another dedicated Fox viewer? There is no program or policy that would have allowed this young man to become a citizen, short of leaving the US for 10 years, then applying to re-enter. That is why they are called "Dreamers". They dream of becoming citizens of the only home they know. We visit the sins of the parents on the children. I hope you find a new, real source of news. I suggest NPR, the only real fair and balanced source. Thanx
What???
6:56AM MAR 7TH 2014
Well then would someone please explain to the citizens of the Untied States of America how in the heqq Barack Hussein Obama passed a bar exam and was a licensed toting lawyer before he was disbarred?

I mean come on any kid in the 5th grade can see that green document claiming to be his long form birth certificate is a fake and a poor quality fake at that! Guess the laws in the USA only fit the ones they want them to fit anymore hoh?
Dean
10:06AM MAR 7TH 2014
OK What. I try very hard not to insult people. Beyond not wanting SSN to ban me, experience has taught me that the moment you insult someone, the moment you call them a fool or an idiot, they cease to listen. But, you prove that rule! Only a tiny percentage of Americans still believe that lie. Most, if not all dedicated Fow viewers. Do you really believe that the state of HAWAII forged Obamas birth certificate? Like him, hate him, he is a natural born citizen. That lie has been disproved. Please turn off Fox, join the real world, try NPR. Do something other than being a tool of the right wing fringe. Please!

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