Applicants are required to disclose prior criminal arrests, charges, convictions, pleas of guilty and similar court proceedings. A criminal record is not an automatic prohibition to the admission of an applicant to the New York State Bar. Rather, a criminal record, especially the nature and circumstances of the offense as well as evidence of rehabilitation, is among the considerations forming the basis upon which an evaluation is made. In addition, the Committee also takes into consideration all other circumstances bearing on an applicant's character and fitness, including affidavits of good moral character from long-time acquaintances, former employers, and other sources.
Further, please be advised that this Court's rules permit a prospective applicant to petition for an "advance ruling" on the effect of a felony or misdemeanor conviction upon his or her character and fitness evaluation. Such advance rulings are available to matriculated law students or applicants to law school.
I plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of grand theft at age 18, in the year 2003. Had probation for 3 years, record was then expunged. According to California law, I can legally answer "no" to someone asking if I had ever been convicted of a misdemeanor. However, I still must answer "yes" if someone asks me if I had ever been charged with a misdemeanor. Furthermore, records in the State of California are destroyed after 7 years. And the FBI only tracks felonies.
Reading the letter I got back from the NY Bar, and knowing the above facts, what would you do?