A postcard from the D’Alemberte Rotunda

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The following is a guest post from Tallahassee attorney Florence Snyder.

Dozens of friends and colleagues of Florida State University President and Law School Dean Emeritus Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte gathered in his namesake D’Alemberte Rotunda yesterday to share cake and memories on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Some, like former Governor Reubin Askew, served with Sandy in the legislature.  Retired Supreme Court justices and big name lawyers swapped Sandy stories with less well-known witnesses to the Atticus Finch qualities that Sandy brings to everything he does as a lawyer, a teacher, and a friend.

Sandy’s still bringin’ it on behalf of clients like Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio.  An Eagle Scout and valedictorian at Tampa’s Armwood High School, Godinez-Samperio, now 26, has passed the Florida bar exam but can’t get licensed because his parents overstayed their visitors’ visa when they came here from Mexico when Jose was  9.

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners passed the buck to the Florida Supreme Court which passed the buck to the U.S. Department of Justice  This week, the DOJ took time out from criminalizing journalism to weigh in with a brief advising Florida’s high court to tell Godinez-Samperio to pound sand, citing a 1996 federal law barring undocumented immigrants from receiving “public benefits.

 Godinez-Samperio’s odds are looking about as good as the Spartans at Thermopaylae.  But that’s when Sandy is at his best.

Before DOJ’s brief had made it into the court file, Sandy was mustering an army of bar leaders to petition the Court to “defend its prerogatives” under the Florida Constitution and issue the license.

It’s a classic Sandy argument….so elegant, so simple, so gutsy, that hardly anybody else would have even thought of it, let alone rounded up—practically overnight—a group of high-octane lawyers to pull for his cause as easily as a magician pulls rabbits from hats.

 Like Bluto in National Lampoon’s Animal House, Sandy works best in hopeless situations. “Nothing is over until [Sandy] says it is.”

Ask anyone, “Who do you think is going to be the next Sandy D’Alemberte?” and behold the blank stares.  Like Atticus Finch—and Bluto—Sandy is one of a kind.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.