Board Of Law Examiners: The Kings Of Wishful Thinking – Download “Good Moral Character Question for Virginia Bar Admission – Time for a Change”
1 University of Richmond Law Review Volume 19 Issue 3 Articles on Good Ethical Character for Admission to the Virginia Bar – Time for Change Kristin M. Trevino Follow this and more at the University of Richmond: Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Part of the House of Commons and the legal profession Suggested Citation Kristine M. Trevino, The Good Moral Character Test for Admission to the Virginia Bar – Time for a Change, 19 U .Rich. L. Rev. 601 (1985). Availability: The UR Scholarship Repository brings you this overview with free and open access. Accepted by the Editor of the UR Scholarship Repository Authority for inclusion in the University of Richmond Law Review. Contact for more information
Board Of Law Examiners: The Kings Of Wishful Thinking
2 Footnote on the Amendment The test of good moral character for admission to the Virginia bar is one of the most important and essential components of a democratic society.’ The main task of lawyers is to help citizens protect their personal rights. Because of the lawyer’s “enviable position of dignity and respect,” he “enjoys the confidence and trust of the public.” 2 Therefore, society expects and the profession demands that only people with sufficient information, education and good moral character will be allowed to practice law. Generally, there are three requirements for admission to the bar: intellectual ability, bar exams, and moral character. 3 Intellectual achievements are focused on formal education; A period of prescribed graduate school and a period of law school are now prerequisites for admission to the bar in all states.” Likewise, every state now requires bar candidates to pass a written exam that covers nearly two dozen areas. Law. 5 Good moral character and fitness to practice law is the final requirement. Despite the controversy surrounding this requirement, it is generally accepted as “hallmarks of a truly competent attorney.” 6 1. Sprecher, Bar. Right to Do, 51 ABA. J.248 (1965). 1977, 47 B. Ex~mIER 18, 19 (1978) (hereinafter cited) (1971); see also B. HARNMR, LAW, LAWYERS, THE MEANING OF LIMON’S APPLICATION OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM 46 (1984). See LEGAL REFERENCES IN GENERAL (S. Duhl ed. . 1980) (Practice of Law in the United States). General information regarding access to the AS) [hereinafter referred to as the handbook]. 4. See AB.A Section of Legal Education and Bar Admission and National Conference of Bar Examiners, Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements (1984). 5. Manual, supra note 3, at 18. For a general discussion of whether bar exams are really necessary, see Blackmar, Are Bar Exams an Anachronism?, 60 A.BA J (1974), and Griswold, In Praise of Bar Exams, 60 A.BA J. 81 (1974). 6. All states now require good moral character as a prerequisite for admission to the bar. See TM Bar Admission Rules (1963). 7. Huber, Law School Roles and Graduate Exercise, 53 B. Examiner 6 (1984).
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3 University of Richmond Law Review [Til. 19:601 a person of “honest conduct or good moral character.” To fulfill their responsibility to ensure that only persons of good moral character are admitted to the bar, most of the 9 states conduct a character examination on all applicants. This review focuses on the methods and procedures used for character studies in Virginia. The commentary examines the purpose of and objections to the requirement of good moral character. It will focus on Virginia’s sign inspection procedures and the need to review and amend those procedures. In particular, Virginia’s use of rest and in-person inquiry serves the important functions of protecting the public from “unscrupulous attorneys” 10 and “protecting the integrity of our legal system and our courts.” General Information Good moral character is the most important requirement for admission to the Bar. 2 At least one court has held that “the practice of an attorney is more important than good moral character.” 3 One scholar says that determining the good moral character of prospective attorney candidates is “one of the most important.” Democracy is asked to work.” 1 4 The requirement of good moral character arises from the very nature of the practice of law in American society. 15 As explained in Judgment 8 . AND. Code ANN (Repl. Vol. 1982). 9. There is authority by States to determine who should be admitted to practice law. In most states, the state supreme court acts as the bar’s general overseer of the administrative aspects of admission to the bar, delegating its primary responsibility to a bar board or a commission whose main task is to “formulate special rules governing the admission of applicants.” Bar.” See Comment, Bar Examinations: Good Moral Character and Political Investigation, 1970 Wis. L. REVIEW 471, Alderman, Character and Fitness Screening, 51 B. Examiner 23, 24 (1982). 11. Allan S. App 683, 689, 387 A.2d 271, 275 (1978). , 280 So. the practice of law.”); Carothers, Character and Fitness: A Need for Increased Understanding, 51 B Examiner 25, 25 (1981) (positive showing of character and fitness is a necessary element of admission to the bar); Shafroth, Character Test – Necessary Part of the Bar Admission Process, 18 B. ExM-INER 194, 208 (1949) (character and fitness are “primary condition[s] of a good bar.”) 13. See Allan S., 282 Md 683, 689, 387 A.2d 271, 275 (1978) 14. Sprecher, supra note 1, at 248; see also Allan S., App., 282 Md.) Applicants seeking original admission to the bar he has the necessary moral qualities…”). 15. Special Project, Admission to the Bar: A Constitutional Analysis, 34 VAND. L. Rev. 655, 664 (1981) [hereinafter Special Draft].
4th 1985] GOOD ETHICS 603 FRANKFURTHER: [A] constitutional guarantee of “life, liberty, and property,” the interests of the individual in the professional respect of lawyers . Truth-telling, a high sense of honor, a granite conscience, those virtues of strict adherence to fiduciary responsibility, which have been described for centuries as “moral character,” should be exercised.’ A character study. States differ in terms of action and methodology. However, they are all based on the premise that future behavior can be predicted by studying and analyzing past behavior. 17 B. Aim and Purpose of the Good Moral Character Requirement Courts and scholars alike have recognized that states have a legitimate interest in ensuring that only lawyers of good moral character and soundness are employed. 18 The purposes of the requirement of good moral character are best expressed in terms of these two well-recognized legitimate public interests: to protect potential clients from incompetent and unscrupulous practitioners, and to provide a fair, orderly and efficient administration of justice . . 9 There is a clear need for government regulation to protect clients from unscrupulous solicitors. Lawyers have a special influence in our society because “they deal with the lives, reputation and reputation of others, in an environment and language that is foreign to many”. 20 Innocent clients unquestioningly place trust and confidence in a lawyer and cannot protect themselves against the infinite malice of an unscrupulous lawyer. 2 For these reasons, 16. Schware v. Bar Council, 353 U.S. 232, 247 (1957) (Frankfurter, J., concurring). 17. See Rhode, Moral Character as Professional Evidence, 94 YALE L.J. 491, (1985). 18. See Goldfarb v. Virginia State Bar, 421 U.S. 773 (1975); Law Student Civil Rights Research Council, Inc. v. Wadmond, 401 U.S. 154 (1971); Baird v. State’s Attorney, 401 US 1 (1971); Konigsberg v. State’s Attorney, 353 US. 252 (1957); Schware v. Bar Council, 353 U.S. 232 (1957); Special Project, supra note 15, at 664; Note, Admission to the Bar–“Good Moral Character”–Constitutional Protection, 45 N.C.L. Rev (1967); Comment, National Survey of Crop Entries: The Need for Reform, 22 ST. Louis U.L.J. 638 (1978) [Annotation, hereinafter National Survey]; Comment, good moral character and