Sunday, February 1, 2009

Case of the Week: 2/2/09

Lying on a bar application or failing to disclose information that the bar examiners may find relevant during a character and fitness examination is almost a surefire way to guarantee that an applicant either won’t be admitted to practice or will be closely scrutinized – with his or her application delayed – before admission.

In one case, an applicant disclosed to the Nebraska bar that he was disciplined by his law school for making personal use of student funds as treasurer of a student bar association, but failed to disclose that he was previously charged with writing a bad check and taking merchandise without payment; the applicant later explained that the two charges “slipped his mind.” In re Majorek, 244 Neb. 595 (1993). The court denied his application and said, “The fact that the applicant could forget encountering the criminal justice system for writing an insufficient funds check even as long as 10 years earlier, when he was 22 years old, is, in and of itself, bothersome. Does the lack of memory indicate that he did not consider the matter serious? Does it indicate that he represses unpleasant experiences and thus does not learn from them? Does the latter hypothesis explain why he has written other insufficient funds checks? Whatever the explanation, the applicant’s self-confessed forgetfulness about so serious a matter does not inspire confidence in his fitness to practice law.” Id., at 604. The court also noted, “The applicant was 31 years old when he misappropriated his fellow students’ funds and had spent considerable time studying law—the misappropriation was hardly the act of a na├»ve and callow youth. While the applicant found himself in a difficult financial situation, the circumstance provides no excuse for his conduct.” Id., at 603.

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