This Article discusses the onerous requirements that state bars sometimes impose on bar applicants to prove good moral character despite the vague definition of the term and the apparently limitless amount of evidence that a character and fitness panel can rely on to deny or delay admission. We present recent examples of decisions that beg the question of whether state bars are really preventing the entry of the unethical into the profession or simply screening out applicants that panelists dislike. We also discuss at least one potential problem highlighted within the process by COVID-19. This Article argues that while most bar applicants pass the character and fitness portion of their bar application without problems, history shows that the potential for arbitrary decisions is so high that this potential should be eliminated. The changes we propose should come either voluntarily, as state bars appropriately adjust their rules to notify applicants of what conduct is truly prohibited, or via a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States, which has already established some constitutional requirements for the process that have apparently been forgotten.
The article was updated on October 27, 2020.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Artem M. Joukov & Samantha M. Caspar,
Who Watches the Watchmen? Character and Fitness Panels and the Onerous Demands Imposed on Bar Applicants,
N.M. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmlr/vol50/iss3/5