Character and Fitness issues

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Zojirushi
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Character and Fitness issues

Postby Zojirushi » Thu Jun 18, 2009 6:58 pm

I have been looking up various reasons that state bars have denied admission. Beyond the usual debt, chemical dependency, blatant dishonesty in court, what have you all seen?

This is an interesting one from a Boalt student who applied to the Texas Bar.
http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F ... -2582.html

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animalcrkrs
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby animalcrkrs » Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:01 pm

I am not sure how true it is, but the bit in PLS about the state bar inquiring about your mental health and 'strongly suggesting' that you allow them to speak to your mental health specialist and waive patient-doctor confidentiality to me seems ridiculous. I guess I get why they don't want homicidal maniacs as lawyers, but law students shouldn't have to choose between a livlihood as a lawyer and necessary mental health services.

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Rocinante
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Rocinante » Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:48 pm

All the ones I have seen denied were having serious issues right up to the point at which they were denied. Most people with a solid buffer seem to do fine whatever their problem may have been. Felonies being the exception.

linquest
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby linquest » Thu Jun 18, 2009 11:49 pm

animalcrkrs wrote:I guess I get why they don't want homicidal maniacs as lawyers, but law students shouldn't have to choose between a livlihood as a lawyer and necessary mental health services.


But they're not requiring you to make that choice at all. I don't think there are any state bars that automatically prohibit you from being licensed on the mere fact that you've used mental health services. Usually, what they want to see is that you've gotten sufficient help for your issues and been "rehabilitated." I think they would be more concerned if you appeared to have some issues (like a criminal or substance abuse history) and *didn't* get help.

Many professional licensing and public employment screening services have similar mental health history components. Also, no one has a right to make a living as a lawyer. All attorneys are "officers of the court," and the state bars have a duty to the public trust to ensure that lawyers are fit to handle the responsibility and confidences of their clients.

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animalcrkrs
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby animalcrkrs » Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:43 am

linquest wrote:
animalcrkrs wrote:I guess I get why they don't want homicidal maniacs as lawyers, but law students shouldn't have to choose between a livlihood as a lawyer and necessary mental health services.


But they're not requiring you to make that choice at all. I don't think there are any state bars that automatically prohibit you from being licensed on the mere fact that you've used mental health services. Usually, what they want to see is that you've gotten sufficient help for your issues and been "rehabilitated." I think they would be more concerned if you appeared to have some issues (like a criminal or substance abuse history) and *didn't* get help.

Many professional licensing and public employment screening services have similar mental health history components. Also, no one has a right to make a living as a lawyer. All attorneys are "officers of the court," and the state bars have a duty to the public trust to ensure that lawyers are fit to handle the responsibility and confidences of their clients.


They definitely don't automatically prohibit you-- I was going off what I read in PLS (which I realize should be taken with a grain of salt) which said that within the law school setting seeking mental health services is subconsciously-or sometimes explicitly- discouraged by those at the school (admin and students) because of the fact it could likely come up at review time. I would imagine that if this is indeed the environment there are a decent number of students who would seek help and benefit from it if they weren't terrified it would keep them from passing the C&F.

I'm not implying that anyone has a "right" to be a lawyer or any other career. I just hold the opinion that there should be safeguards to ensure that those who need help for whatever reason (substance abuse, depression etc) can seek it without the fear that they'll get burned if they refuse to allow the breaking of doctor-patient privilege at C&F.

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limegreen
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby limegreen » Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:57 am

So are you saying that the fact I saw a therapist for a while after the death of one of my parents could prevent me from passing the bar?

linquest
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby linquest » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:07 am

I don't know about every law school of course, but it's not been by my personal experience throughout law school or from what I've heard of my friends' law schools that administration will discourage you from seeking mental health services, especially because of all the ABA and state bar initiatives on this specific issue. Still, I think the bars have an absolute right to look into your mental health history given lawyers' responsibilities and the public trust that they hold, much like security clearances for government employment. If they're not allowed get information directly from your service provider, they might as well not be able to investigate that at all if they have to take your word for it. And yes, the state bars do have safeguards to ensure that the process isn't abused--that's what the C&F Appeals process and professional responsibility regulations are for.

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IzziesGal
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby IzziesGal » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:10 am

linquest wrote:I don't know about every law school of course, but it's not been by my personal experience throughout law school or from what I've heard of my friends' law schools that administration will discourage you from seeking mental health services, especially because of all the ABA and state bar initiatives on this specific issue. Still, I think the bars have an absolute right to look into your mental health history given lawyers' responsibilities and the public trust that they hold, much like security clearances for government employment. If they're not allowed get information directly from your service provider, they might as well not be able to investigate that at all if they have to take your word for it. And yes, the state bars do have safeguards to ensure that the process isn't abused--that's what the C&F Appeals process and professional responsibility regulations are for.


What about in a situation like the poster above, who sought services before law school began? It seems as if it's discourage during law school, and not really frowned upon before it? That doesn't seem to make sense to me....
Last edited by IzziesGal on Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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IzziesGal
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby IzziesGal » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:12 am

Also, I posted about this a while back, but a quick phone call to your state's C&F committee will help resolve any lingering doubt. My friends and I called our state's C&F and said we were law students about to begin in the fall, and we wanted to know if x,y, or z would be serious issues so we could start gathering information and paperwork well in advance.

NONE of the things any of us mentioned were serious issues....which leads me to believe that people freak out WAY too much about this stuff. Just my two cents.

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Zojirushi
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Zojirushi » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:14 am

There was a case in the 70s in which an attorney was denied admission on the basis that he still attended AA meetings but had been sober for 10+ years. He appealed and the court overturned leading to his admission. The issue (at least in Texas) is whether or not there is a present lapse in moral character or fitness. Animal does raise an interesting point about the maintenance of mental health and the treatment of a mental health issue.

limegreen: That is not the kind of the thing that should be an issue (for above reason), but it probably will need to be disclosed in your application. You can look up your states bar application in advance, and I would advise prospective law students to do so before they matriculate.

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Zojirushi
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Zojirushi » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:16 am

IzziesGal wrote:NONE of the things any of us mentioned were serious issues....which leads me to believe that people freak out WAY too much about this stuff. Just my two cents.


I think this is also usually the case. That is what inspired me to start this thread. Issues are almost always fraud, deceipt, egregious financial mismanagement etc.

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IzziesGal
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby IzziesGal » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:18 am

Zojirushi wrote:There was a case in the 70s in which an attorney was denied admission on the basis that he still attended AA meetings but had been sober for 10+ years. He appealed and the court overturned leading to his admission. The issue (at least in Texas) is whether or not there is a present lapse in moral character or fitness. Animal does raise an interesting point about the maintenance of mental health and the treatment of a mental health issue.

limegreen: That is not the kind of the thing that should be an issue (for above reason), but it probably will need to be disclosed in your application. You can look up your states bar application in advance, and I would advise prospective law students to do so before they matriculate.


That makes more sense. A past lapse in judgment that has been thoroughly rehabilitated is a lot different than an ongoing and current issue.

Limegreen, I also agree that it shouldn't be an issue. People who go to marriage counselling or grief counselling, etc., shouldn't really be worried - I think it's the people who are in substance abuse counselling or anger management for current issues that have a problem. Try to relax. :D

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animalcrkrs
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby animalcrkrs » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:33 am

What about facing prosecution successfully? I know someone attending a great law school next year who faced SERIOUS charges (battery and robbery--in one sitting) while in college but was found not guilty. Will C&F still question this event?
Another person I know had to face an inquiry because she'd had a restraining order filed against her (one of those crazy-ex stories), and multiple people had to write or appear on her behalf to attest to her character. She passed but what a pain.

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Zojirushi
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Zojirushi » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:43 am

animalcrkrs wrote:What about facing prosecution successfully? I know someone attending a great law school next year who faced SERIOUS charges (battery and robbery--in one sitting) while in college but was found not guilty. Will C&F still question this event?


From my brief research, I am pretty sure they will revisit this. Their duty is not to challenge the previous court's finding but to look closely for inconsistencies in statements made under oath, perhaps examine how/ why your friend found themselves in this position.

zero1
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby zero1 » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:48 am

Zojirushi wrote:There was a case in the 70s in which an attorney was denied admission on the basis that he still attended AA meetings but had been sober for 10+ years. He appealed and the court overturned leading to his admission. The issue (at least in Texas) is whether or not there is a present lapse in moral character or fitness. Animal does raise an interesting point about the maintenance of mental health and the treatment of a mental health issue.

limegreen: That is not the kind of the thing that should be an issue (for above reason), but it probably will need to be disclosed in your application. You can look up your states bar application in advance, and I would advise prospective law students to do so before they matriculate.


How did they know that he was still attending the meetings? He disclosed this?

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Zojirushi
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Zojirushi » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:53 am

It did not specify, but I would hope he disclosed the information in his app. Not disclosing that would have made his chances at appeal much slimmer.

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Zojirushi
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Zojirushi » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:56 am

http://www.abanet.org/legaled/publicati ... chart2.pdf
State by state break down of issues/exceptions.

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limegreen
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby limegreen » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:57 am

I guess I'm trying to understand what constitutes a mental problem for the bar.

Would seeing a therapist (whether for grief or just personal issues) be a problem? Or is it only if you're seeing someone for a more serious issue?

zero1
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby zero1 » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:04 pm

Zojirushi wrote:It did not specify, but I would hope he disclosed the information in his app. Not disclosing that would have made his chances at appeal much slimmer.



Yeah but like...what record would there be of that? If you decide to stop by an AA meeting every once in a while, is this on some type of file? Kind of seems Orwellian.

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IzziesGal
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby IzziesGal » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:05 pm

limegreen wrote:I guess I'm trying to understand what constitutes a mental problem for the bar.

Would seeing a therapist (whether for grief or just personal issues) be a problem? Or is it only if you're seeing someone for a more serious issue?


Diagnosed as bipolar or with another disorder, diagnosed as having a substance abuse/chemical dependency issue, etc.

I don't think that simply seeing a therapist so you have someone to talk to would bar you from admission....otherwise, 80% of New Yorkers wouldn't be eligible to take the bar. :D

zero1
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby zero1 » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:13 pm

One more question...


Do you have to list volunteer work as employment? It asks for "paid or unpaid enterprise" on a multitude of these fitness questionnaires. Volunteering at a hospital would count, right?

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limegreen
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby limegreen » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:18 pm

IzziesGal wrote:
limegreen wrote:I guess I'm trying to understand what constitutes a mental problem for the bar.

Would seeing a therapist (whether for grief or just personal issues) be a problem? Or is it only if you're seeing someone for a more serious issue?


Diagnosed as bipolar or with another disorder, diagnosed as having a substance abuse/chemical dependency issue, etc.

I don't think that simply seeing a therapist so you have someone to talk to would bar you from admission....otherwise, 80% of New Yorkers wouldn't be eligible to take the bar. :D


Haha, that's what I figured.

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Rocinante
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Rocinante » Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:17 pm

I just figured I would throw this out there. Seeking mental help after a tragedy isn't going to cause a problem. Someone mentioned above that they received counseling after loosing a family member. This isn't what they are after. It is expected that people will become emotionally distressed when they are provoked.

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Rocinante
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby Rocinante » Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:21 pm

limegreen wrote:
IzziesGal wrote:
limegreen wrote:I guess I'm trying to understand what constitutes a mental problem for the bar.

Would seeing a therapist (whether for grief or just personal issues) be a problem? Or is it only if you're seeing someone for a more serious issue?


Diagnosed as bipolar or with another disorder, diagnosed as having a substance abuse/chemical dependency issue, etc.

I don't think that simply seeing a therapist so you have someone to talk to would bar you from admission....otherwise, 80% of New Yorkers wouldn't be eligible to take the bar. :D


Haha, that's what I figured.


Even this is a little extreme based on my research. For certain, I know that a past chemical dependency problem will not keep you out insofar as you haven't had any issues for a while. However, they will most likely have you take a monthly drug test for 6mo or so while you are tentatively admitted.

The big concern here is ongoing problems. If you are caught snorting heroin off a hookers backside a few months before you sit for the bar, that could be a problem. Stuff that's 5+ years old, and for which you can show solid evidence of rehab (i.e. community service, no more criminal issues, etc) are not going to get you denied.

Of course, this is going to be different for every jurisdiction. I'm just sharing what I have turned up.

vlynne
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Re: Character and Fitness issues

Postby vlynne » Sat Jun 20, 2009 3:17 pm

wow I did not even THINK of this until seeing a similar post today.

the reality is, some of us do not have a traditional background. some things might need explaining, but it's somewhat nervewracking to have any sliver of a doubt about going through law school and finding this as a brick wall.

what about those of us who have had something more of a serious mental illness? (PTSD/eating disorder/certainly more than one hospitalization) the reality is, being in treatment is better than *not* being in treatment, but it looks like my answers to the CA bar section of medical disclosure are going to be quite long. especially if I need a separate form for each bought of treatment. (also the illnesses can be pointed directly to years of documented abuse/restraining orders/etc -explainable, right?)
might it be proof enough to show that despite 10 years of this, I maintained a 4.0 in a challenging major while working two jobs, have 3 years of lobbying/advocacy/govt work in top groups in a big city prior to even applying to law school - life is tough but I'm tougher? :?

dang this makes me uncomfortable. any advice about how to find someone who would know a thing or two for direct advice?




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