Sunday, March 15, 2009

Case(s) of the Week 3/16/09

Prior conduct may bar an applicant's admission to the bar, but the applicant can still offer evidence of rehabilitation to impress upon the bar examiners why he or she should be admitted.

For example, an applicant who was previously denied admission to the Nebraska bar -- due to a prior sexual assault conviction for alleged misconduct involving the applicant’s underage niece, an inappropriate letter to another juvenile, and two arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol -- was granted admission six years later. The court held that the applicant presented sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including: medical documentation that he has resolved his previous conditions; service in Iraq and in his community; and a substantial number of letters of support from those who knew him. In re Hartmann 276 Neb 775 (2008)

By contrast, “making good” isn’t always sufficient evidence of rehabilitation in the eyes of the court. In one Massachusetts case, the court held, “A prior conviction is not an absolute bar to admission. We have stated that no offense is so grave as to preclude a showing of present moral fitness…The commission of a felony is, however, conclusive evidence of lack of good moral character at the time of the offense.” In re Prager, 422 Mass. 86 (1996). In that case, Prager was convicted of smuggling large quantities of marijuana and subsequently fled the country; he later returned and successfully complied with the terms of his probation. The court held, “seven years of a creditable work history, and compliance with the terms of a five-year probationary period, are insufficient to show good moral character when balanced against approximately sixteen years of marihuana use, international smuggling, and living as a fugitive.” Id., at 100.

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