Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

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toplawschoolcandidate
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Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby toplawschoolcandidate » Thu Dec 15, 2005 10:42 pm

I'm in the unfortunate sittuation of answering yes to the question of having been convicted of a crime.

Worse yet is that I have to answer yes four times over. Listing is a real pain but hopefully someone on the site is knowledgeable in this aspect of the admissions process and give me some soudn advice...

2001-misdeameanor offense for joyriding
2002-infraction for fleeing the scene of an accident
2003-Violation for posession of marijuana
2004-Infraction for DWAI

Along witht his I have a 171 lsat score and a 3.8 at City Universtiy of New York.

What can I do? What are my prosepects for admission at top law schools?

Warren
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Postby Warren » Fri Dec 16, 2005 1:10 am

First of all congrats on some pretty impressive numbers.

If I was in your position I would not try to hide these previous transgressions. I would put them front and center in my personal statement and talk about how I've changed since then. If you were assigned some community service as part of the sentence I would highlight that and talk about how that changed you. You could talk about bringing a different perpective (from the other side of the law), one that I doubt too many law students have but would certainly be a unique contribution to the class. Some schools might appreciate this given their desire to form a diverse class.

All in all my advice would be to be up front about it and construct some creative ways that these experiences have changed you and would contribute to the law school. If you do a good job with that I'm sure with your numbers some law school will take a chance.

Good luck.

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Ken
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Top Law Schools Bound - But Apply Everywhere

Postby Ken » Sun Dec 18, 2005 1:42 am

Thankfully, I do know that with your very impressive numbers you will be accepted into at least one if not several top law schools.

However, there is some general advice I give to all of those who have unique situations that go beyond just the normal admissions numbers, and that is to apply to many law schools.

In your case, your great numbers will allow one of the best law schools to forgive your transgressions. But as Warren appropriately mentioned in the last post, you need to address these criminal issues head on somewhere in your application, such as in an addendum or in your personal statement.

I do think that the best angle is to focus upon the life lessons and insight that these infractions have given you and how they have led to your interest in law. As an example, one of my best peers at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall was a former gang member and he had a criminal record, but he had since reformed and wanted to utilize a legal education to convey these lessons of reform and an understanding of the legal system (and its consequences) to others. The fact that he came from a poor upbringing helped with the story. His numbers were no where near as impressive as yours, but Boalt loves a good story and is looking for non-traditional candidates.

You should apply to many of the top 20 law schools for your results could vary widely depending upon how they view your run-ins with the law. Know that you are not the only applicant out there facing this issue (there are many DUI infractions amongst talented college students), but it is something you need to address somewhere in your application.

Best of luck and congrats on your excellent LSAT and GPA, this will make it much easier for top law schools to look past your infractions.

By the way, do you want to party this weekend, you sound like a guy who has a great time? Just kidding of course, but these things happen and it is all about minimizing the negatives and maximizing your positives and one of the most effective ways to do this is to apply to many law schools and anticipate that at least one top law school will take a chance on you.

Youth is for living large and mistakes do happen, the key is to learn from those mistakes and continually evolve to higher planes of knowledge.

toplawschoolcandidate
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Postby toplawschoolcandidate » Wed Dec 21, 2005 6:17 pm

Hey Ken Warren Thanks guys really great responses...

a testament to the law community and the respect which people attribute to it, In March I'll update and elt you guys know where I get it, I'm applying to 10 of the top20 and 3 more in the top40, I'm addresing the issue in my addendum as a few admissions cousnelors said if if it's not extreme (gang member) and they were indsgressions it should be left out of the personal statement.

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Ken
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Addendum is a great place to tackle legal indiscretions

Postby Ken » Thu Dec 22, 2005 12:27 am

Your admissions counselor is right, the addendum is the best place to address everything. Because the indiscretions are not that severe and quite common amongst college students, it is best not to make it the focal point of your personal statement.

You are also wise to apply to many law schools, please keep us updated on how many top law schools you get admitted to.

Best of luck. I personally am in favor of legalizing many "vices," for to do so would minimize the negatives of them and also provide a new tax revenue source for government. More liberal law schools, such as U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, will not penalize you much for your legal indiscretions.

gradstudent
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Postby gradstudent » Thu Feb 02, 2006 3:36 pm

I'm in a similar boat. I'm taking the LSAT in June, so I don't know that score yet. My GPA in Electrical Engineering was 3.91 from a top10 school, and I'm getting my M.S. in EE right now.

That being said, I also have a record for shoplifting from 2004. Not my brightest moment, and I don't think it's too common among students (unlike a charge for marijuana). The tricky part is this: I was given a deferred sentence, which means I can honestly, albeit technically, say "no" to the question of a conviction on an application. My record has also been sealed, but I'm 99% certain that any State Bar can access it. When I apply I'm still going to write an addendum even if I answer "no" (which I haven't decided yet). Anyways, just letting you know, toplawschoolcandidate, that you're not the only one with a record applying to good schools.

juliegirl
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Postby juliegirl » Thu Feb 02, 2006 11:39 pm

Gradstudent, I'd be careful with answering no. Several of the applications I've seen specifically say that even if your record is sealed they want to know about it. Subsequently, I've seen applications ask if you've been arrested for a crime (whether or not you were convicted).

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tommytahoe
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby tommytahoe » Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:50 pm

This is for Ken and anyone else knowledgeable of the criminal disclosure application requirements at Boalt Hall:
(this is also four years after the OP, but oh well...)

I am in a similar situation: 3.79 LSDAS GPA, 170 LSAT score as a current senior at UC Davis, and also, sadly, with a criminal past. Specifically, two DUI's (2000, 2001), a non-violent cocaine felony charge expunged through CA Prop. 36 diversion program, and a subsequent FEDERAL removal proceedings pursuant to the drug charge — to establish whether my crime made me deportable (I was born in the UK, green card holder living in US since I was a one year-old).

I have not touched a drug since the original CA arrest (five-plus years), and the whole thing slapped me in the face to step back off the cliff I was peering over. The removal proceedings lasted from 2006 to 2009. I was acquitted of that, am allowed to remain in the US, and will begin naturalization within a year. In the process I have come to learn the law, to respect it, to understand my place in it at a more sophisticated level, and have developed a strong motivation for law as an academic pursuit and as a career. I am 36, but age is not a deterrent. Neither is debt (believe me, I have vetted myself)

What I would like to know is what needs to be disclosed. My family thinks I should be very careful in what I disclose (anything criminal, as has been stated in some other posts on this website, is simply a reason to tip the scales away from you, and in favor of someone else with similar #'s who DOES NOT have a record)

They also say "Why disclose what isn't asked of you?" Fair point. But my guess is that there will be little if anything a full background check will not reveal. And if law schools don't find it, the ABA probably will. Again, this is my guess. If anyone here knows the real facts of what they can retrieve through a background check, and also if anyone knows the exact wording of the Boalt Hall question regarding criminal record, I would very much appreciate it. Thank you.

My goal is to use the record (mostly the drug crime and the removal proceedings) as not only a way to explain how far I have come from that unfortunate phase of my life, but also to show how instrumental all of this has been in awakening my intellectual motivations, to return to school, and my ambitions for law as a career for the rest of my life. I have a deeper understanding of the complexity, and the power, of law. I also have a second chance —it may be a cliche, but it is the one thing driving me forward, and to ensure that I don't f*** up that chance I have been lucky to receive.

Any info. you all have about the application and the background check would be greatly appreciated.

tm

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custom_concern
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby custom_concern » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:03 pm

tommytahoe wrote:This is for Ken and anyone else knowledgeable of the criminal disclosure application requirements at Boalt Hall:
(this is also four years after the OP, but oh well...)

I am in a similar situation: 3.79 LSDAS GPA, 170 LSAT score as a current senior at UC Davis, and also, sadly, with a criminal past. Specifically, two DUI's (2000, 2001), a non-violent cocaine felony charge expunged through CA Prop. 36 diversion program, and a subsequent FEDERAL removal proceedings pursuant to the drug charge — to establish whether my crime made me deportable (I was born in the UK, green card holder living in US since I was a one year-old).

I have not touched a drug since the original CA arrest (five-plus years), and the whole thing slapped me in the face to step back off the cliff I was peering over. The removal proceedings lasted from 2006 to 2009. I was acquitted of that, am allowed to remain in the US, and will begin naturalization within a year. In the process I have come to learn the law, to respect it, to understand my place in it at a more sophisticated level, and have developed a strong motivation for law as an academic pursuit and as a career. I am 36, but age is not a deterrent. Neither is debt (believe me, I have vetted myself)

What I would like to know is what needs to be disclosed. My family thinks I should be very careful in what I disclose (anything criminal, as has been stated in some other posts on this website, is simply a reason to tip the scales away from you, and in favor of someone else with similar #'s who DOES NOT have a record)

They also say "Why disclose what isn't asked of you?" Fair point. But my guess is that there will be little if anything a full background check will not reveal. And if law schools don't find it, the ABA probably will. Again, this is my guess. If anyone here knows the real facts of what they can retrieve through a background check, and also if anyone knows the exact wording of the Boalt Hall question regarding criminal record, I would very much appreciate it. Thank you.

My goal is to use the record (mostly the drug crime and the removal proceedings) as not only a way to explain how far I have come from that unfortunate phase of my life, but also to show how instrumental all of this has been in awakening my intellectual motivations, to return to school, and my ambitions for law as a career for the rest of my life. I have a deeper understanding of the complexity, and the power, of law. I also have a second chance —it may be a cliche, but it is the one thing driving me forward, and to ensure that I don't f*** up that chance I have been lucky to receive.

Any info. you all have about the application and the background check would be greatly appreciated.

tm


Expunged or otherwise, YOU SHOULD NOT LIE ON YOUR LAW SCHOOL APPLICATIONS. If the C&F question on an application uses very broad, umbrella terminology like " ... have you ever in your life been arrested for, cited for, charged with, or convicted of any crime ... " -- as many applications do -- then there is nothing technical about it. You must answer yes. If you don't, the bar WILL find out, you WILL have a tremendous shit-storm on your hands, and you WILL have a difficult time becoming a practicing attorney.

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tommytahoe
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby tommytahoe » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:48 pm

Yeah, that's what I figured, and what I have been saying to my family (those who preferred the minimalist approach).

The only two variables were:
(1) What does the form exactly say? (esp. for Boalt Hall, but for lower-ranked schools also)
(2) are there any things that won't show up in a law school/ABA search?

Your post has answered the second question, and, I suppose, made the first mostly irrelevant.

thanks

Leeroy Jenkins
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby Leeroy Jenkins » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:50 pm

Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application? Maybe, maybe not, but lying about it kills your chances of becoming a lawyer.

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custom_concern
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby custom_concern » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:57 pm

tommytahoe wrote:Yeah, that's what I figured, and what I have been saying to my family (those who preferred the minimalist approach).

The only two variables were:
(1) What does the form exactly say? (esp. for Boalt Hall, but for lower-ranked schools also)
(2) are there any things that won't show up in a law school/ABA search?

Your post has answered the second question, and, I suppose, made the first mostly irrelevant.

thanks



From what I've read -- and mind you, I haven't gone in front of the bar (yet) -- absolutely everything shows up during the C&F investigation. Everything.

ScaredWorkedBored
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby ScaredWorkedBored » Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:02 pm

General rule for these questions:

Fudging one's criminal record to get into law school now is a great way to find you in three years that you have wasted a large amount of money.

M2008
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby M2008 » Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:56 pm

The forms vary — some allow you to leave off expunged charges, some don't. I had a minor infraction or two (reckless driving & underage drinking, though the latter was through my undergraduate institution rather than a criminal charge), and I disclosed them whether the question was broad enough to cover them or not, so there would be absolutely zero chance that an investigator down the road might take inconsistencies in my applications as a sign of dishonesty. (E.g., in my addendum: "I did not put this down for question Y, but on applications for other schools where the question was written more broadly, I disclosed incident X.") Probably overkill, but, meh.

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tommytahoe
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby tommytahoe » Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:21 pm

Right, that's my take as well: err on the side of caution.
Unfortunately, there is a negative on both sides of the equation: disclose everything, that's a negative, naturally (It is something I must counterbalance with my hard factors, and my PS). Don't disclose some things, that's a huge negative in the eyes of the Bar, as y'all have pointed out.
If I accept as the baseline that the CA Bar Examiners will be able to see everything, incl. what I did not include in applications, then any of the law schools' narrower questions immediately become very, very broad.

I accept what I did, and I accept that it is on my record. The best thing to do is to squash the negative, write an emphatic story about what I became as a result of that part of my life. If I can show them this is more than just the committing of crime —that it is an example of poor choices turned around 180 degrees to continuous success— that is the best way to control a reality of my past that I essentially cannot control. Risky, but the only smart choice available. Only question: PS or addendum...

thanks all!

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vanwinkle
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:50 pm

Lxw wrote:Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application? Maybe, maybe not, but lying about it kills your chances of becoming a lawyer.


+1

Marcus Epstein had his T14 acceptance rescinded after the school learned he failed to disclose an assault charge. The big issue was disclosure.

Since all those issues with you happened 5 years ago you would be well served to write in your addendum that you have learned and grown since then and do not see yourself doing any of these things again. Of course, if you do write that, make sure you don't go get yourself another DWI or drug charge.

CuCane33
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby CuCane33 » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:13 pm

Have two minor infractions:

1) underage drinking, which i'll disclos

2) Public urination---should I disclose this even if it was just a small fine?

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Kohinoor
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby Kohinoor » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:15 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
Lxw wrote:Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application? Maybe, maybe not, but lying about it kills your chances of becoming a lawyer.


+1

Marcus Epstein had his T14 acceptance rescinded after the school learned he failed to disclose an assault charge. The big issue was disclosure.

Since all those issues with you happened 5 years ago you would be well served to write in your addendum that you have learned and grown since then and do not see yourself doing any of these things again. Of course, if you do write that, make sure you don't go get yourself another DWI or drug charge.

Mentioning him is an excellent way to derail a thread. I'll let you go with a warning this time.

Rdizzzlebiches
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby Rdizzzlebiches » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:19 pm

No. I have 7 misdemeanors I had to disclose on my apps (primarily from drug related offenses), and my cycle ended up pretty much as I expected. I didn't address the convictions at all in my PS, but I did write a short and to the point addendum basically listing all my convictions, approximate dates, city, and a brief description. Really, I just wrote a sentence or two for each conviction. Then, at the end I said something like "I take full responsibility for these charges/convictions. I have matured greatly over the past three years and I hope my academic accomplishments during this period demonstrate my commitment to both my education and future". I wouldn't try to make it out to be some profound experience that helped you turn your life around. Just own up to it, you'll be fine, at least, in terms of getting into law school. You could possibly have some problems when it comes time to sit for the bar or find a job, however.

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tommytahoe
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby tommytahoe » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:42 pm

Interesting. Seven misdemeanors. Good for you for being accepted all the same.

Well, I will proceed like this:
Get my criminal record in its entirety from my attorney (both the federal FBI check and the CA report). This will show me what is and what isn't there. Then, talk to the CA Bar Examiners. Ask them whether they think it is OK for me not to disclose a fully expunged crime (on my law school application only), and subsequently, three years later disclose it to the Bar (who, as has been discussed much, have a higher standard and greater legal rights to demand that disclosure). I spoke to them already regarding the negative side-effects of having the crime(s) on my record (regardless of expunctions), and they said there is no crime for which they apply an automatic disqualification. In each case there must be submitted proof that one has turned around their life.

Knowing what is on my full record, I will then contact the admissions offices of the main schools I am applying to. I will ask them what their applications ask, specifically, word for word. I will ask them whether expunged convictions are asked of me, and whether I am required by law to disclose them. Irrespective of the legality issue, I will ask them candidly what negative effect(s) they think may hypothetically result from my not disclosing an expunged crime.
I will withhold the expunged felony conviction only if I feel there is 100% airtight deniability (made-up word) for me to do so. Otherwise, disclose is what I'll do. I appreciate the advice to not tell a grand story of redemption, but rather keep it out of the PS, and deal with it accurately and candidly in an addendum. Besides, even if I was not required to disclose the CA arrest, etc., there is a deportation proceedings that would make any adcomm or bar C&F officer ask the question, "Why were you in a three-year removal proceedings?"

thanks

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sentinal5656
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby sentinal5656 » Tue Jul 21, 2009 4:13 pm

yes

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custom_concern
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby custom_concern » Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:10 pm

tommytahoe wrote:Interesting. Seven misdemeanors. Good for you for being accepted all the same.

Well, I will proceed like this:
Get my criminal record in its entirety from my attorney (both the federal FBI check and the CA report). This will show me what is and what isn't there. Then, talk to the CA Bar Examiners. Ask them whether they think it is OK for me not to disclose a fully expunged crime (on my law school application only), and subsequently, three years later disclose it to the Bar (who, as has been discussed much, have a higher standard and greater legal rights to demand that disclosure). I spoke to them already regarding the negative side-effects of having the crime(s) on my record (regardless of expunctions), and they said there is no crime for which they apply an automatic disqualification. In each case there must be submitted proof that one has turned around their life.

Knowing what is on my full record, I will then contact the admissions offices of the main schools I am applying to. I will ask them what their applications ask, specifically, word for word. I will ask them whether expunged convictions are asked of me, and whether I am required by law to disclose them. Irrespective of the legality issue, I will ask them candidly what negative effect(s) they think may hypothetically result from my not disclosing an expunged crime.
I will withhold the expunged felony conviction only if I feel there is 100% airtight deniability (made-up word) for me to do so. Otherwise, disclose is what I'll do. I appreciate the advice to not tell a grand story of redemption, but rather keep it out of the PS, and deal with it accurately and candidly in an addendum. Besides, even if I was not required to disclose the CA arrest, etc., there is a deportation proceedings that would make any adcomm or bar C&F officer ask the question, "Why were you in a three-year removal proceedings?"

thanks


This is the credited plan of action. Good luck to you.

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tommytahoe
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby tommytahoe » Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:18 pm

sentinal5656 wrote:This is the credited plan of action.


ha ha. yes, i am a nerd.

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PrayingforHYS
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby PrayingforHYS » Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:38 pm

tommytahoe wrote:Interesting. Seven misdemeanors. Good for you for being accepted all the same.

Well, I will proceed like this:
Get my criminal record in its entirety from my attorney (both the federal FBI check and the CA report). This will show me what is and what isn't there. Then, talk to the CA Bar Examiners. Ask them whether they think it is OK for me not to disclose a fully expunged crime (on my law school application only), and subsequently, three years later disclose it to the Bar (who, as has been discussed much, have a higher standard and greater legal rights to demand that disclosure). I spoke to them already regarding the negative side-effects of having the crime(s) on my record (regardless of expunctions), and they said there is no crime for which they apply an automatic disqualification. In each case there must be submitted proof that one has turned around their life.

Knowing what is on my full record, I will then contact the admissions offices of the main schools I am applying to. I will ask them what their applications ask, specifically, word for word. I will ask them whether expunged convictions are asked of me, and whether I am required by law to disclose them. Irrespective of the legality issue, I will ask them candidly what negative effect(s) they think may hypothetically result from my not disclosing an expunged crime.
I will withhold the expunged felony conviction only if I feel there is 100% airtight deniability (made-up word) for me to do so. Otherwise, disclose is what I'll do. I appreciate the advice to not tell a grand story of redemption, but rather keep it out of the PS, and deal with it accurately and candidly in an addendum. Besides, even if I was not required to disclose the CA arrest, etc., there is a deportation proceedings that would make any adcomm or bar C&F officer ask the question, "Why were you in a three-year removal proceedings?"

thanks


i'm not sure which schools you're looking at (excuse my grammar), but you'll find that all of the t14 request that all convictions--regardless of whether you've been pardoned, expunged, records sealed--need to be included

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tommytahoe
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Re: Does me disclosing criminal offenses kill my application?

Postby tommytahoe » Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:03 am

Nice, thanks for the specifics.

I'm focusing on Boalt, with UC Davis and Hastings as fall-backs (all three of these CA resident schools come with cheaper price tags).
Also included, Stanford (reach), UCLA, Georgetown. I am sure as application time comes I'll get nervous and do a couple more applications...

I am anticipating that the CA Bar's higher standard of disclosure will subsume the law schools' standard, in that it could use what I do or don't disclose on my law school apps as a means of evaluating my "moral character and fitness." (even if the school I attend asks only for non-expunged convictions, eg)
I know, I'd love to reveal only what can be legally asked of me by law schools, but it's the damn "removal proceedings" that would make anyone wonder just what caused the Dept. of Homeland Security to decide they wanted to spend three years trying to get my rehabbed ass out of this country.

I could say "The government tried to deport me for an offense and conviction which may or may not have been real, may or may not have occurred —and if I committed any crime that resulted in that hypothetical charge and conviction, I am not legally required to disclose it to you. To the Bar I am required, but we're not at that stage yet. Also, the DHS lost, so I'm free, and never did anything wrong."




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