Character and Fitness Issue

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cavalier1138

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by cavalier1138 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:25 am

Moabit wrote:Instances where I would definitely seek a C&F attorney help is where the presumption is that you lack moral character (past criminal history, substance abuse, acts of moral turpitude, and such) and where the burden is on you to present evidence to rebut this presumption. (I believe that InterAlia was in that category.)
In other words, you think that the OP should talk to an attorney? Weird.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:08 am

OP here, admittedly I may just be acting hard headed here as a new law school grad that thinks I can handle this using my own law related skills. Given the content of the conversation, I will most likely end up begrudgingly consulting a C&F attorney. For the record, the $500+ will hurt me a financially given that I am currently refinancing my student debt and I am therefore on a tight budget.

My only issue is how straight forward this is and that I am failing to see how a C&F attorney could further assist me. I have pulled up my law school application and the exact question it asked me was, "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense, or is any charge now pending against you for any crime other than a traffic violation?" Which I answered "No." Consolidated Laws of New York's ("CPL code") 720.35(1) reads "A youthful offender adjudication is not a judgment of conviction for a crime or any other offense, and does not operate as a disqualification of any person so adjudged to hold public office or public employment or to receive any license granted by public authority but shall be deemed a conviction only for the purposes of transfer of supervision and custody pursuant to section [259(m)]." NYcourts.gov further explains that, "A youthful offender record is not a criminal record. It is automatically sealed and does not have to be reported on any applications for college or work as a criminal conviction. It does not disqualify the YO from holding public office, or public jobs."

To me this does not seem like an interpretation of the law at all, it is rather a black law issue which is clearly in my favor. And since this was all in NY and I am applying for admission in NY, I would assume that the admission board is familiar with this issue.

However, as stated above, I will most likely take the better safe than sorry path. Thank you all for the posts, and additional posts are of course welcomed and appreciated.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by nixy » Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:46 am

I think the concern is mostly about what the bar has access to and if it has access to sealed cases as an exception to the law in question. See https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.annaiv ... rmat%3Damp
Some states automatically "seal" records in certain situations, including juvenile criminal cases. Others require a formal procedure or an application to seal or expunge a criminal record. In some states, there is no such thing as sealing or expunging a criminal record. In a few states, even "sealed" criminal cases show up on a full criminal background check for prosecutors and judges to see in the future. So does the state bar association in your state get to see that record, or some sanitized version of your record?

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:04 pm

nixy wrote:I think the concern is mostly about what the bar has access to and if it has access to sealed cases as an exception to the law in question. See https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.annaiv ... rmat%3Damp
Some states automatically "seal" records in certain situations, including juvenile criminal cases. Others require a formal procedure or an application to seal or expunge a criminal record. In some states, there is no such thing as sealing or expunging a criminal record. In a few states, even "sealed" criminal cases show up on a full criminal background check for prosecutors and judges to see in the future. So does the state bar association in your state get to see that record, or some sanitized version of your record?
OP, here thank you for the post. However, I do not believe the sealing process is relevant here because I am going to disclose this event regardless of whether the bar admissions has access to it.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by nixy » Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:28 pm

Sure, but my point was more about whether it means you should have answered yes to the law school application question. (Because law schools often ask questions based on knowing what the bar will be able to look at.)

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QContinuum

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by QContinuum » Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:20 pm

Moabit wrote:InterAlia... :( It is probably not a nice thing to say about a fellow traveler, but his case makes me think that CalBar does not always act in an arbitrary manner when it denies someone. I followed some of his posts and exchanges with other people and could not resist but think that his issues were not confined to his past.

One of InterAlia's exchanges was with someone who got a simple request for information from CalBar. InterAlia predicted doom and gloom and kept insinuating that the person was hiding something, up until that person walked away from this board. (S)he was approved shortly thereafter (coming only to report this). My prediction back then was that there was nothing to worry about. But it is true that I am not a C&F attorney and that other than some (hopefully) common sense, my own two trouble-free admissions, and, perhaps, a lower than average anxiety, as well as a general skepticism towards bar admission assistance (including the need for C&F attorneys and bar preparation services), I have no other track record of guiding people to C&F success.
Even assuming arguendo that InterAlia gave wrong/overly pessimistic advice to other applicants, rcharter wasn't citing InterAlia's advice or opinions, but rather the cold hard facts of what the California Bar actually did to InterAlia. It's a cautionary tale that a law school grad who thinks they have C&F handled may, in fact, be wildly off-base.

It's kind of astonishing to me that a lawyer would actively suggest that other folks facing legal issues - issues they have zero prior experience handling - should proceed pro se. This is not like, say, filing a run-of-the-mill insurance claim after a car accident, where hiring a lawyer is probably both overkill and unlikely to add value. Bar C&F can be very tricky indeed.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by rcharter1978 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here, admittedly I may just be acting hard headed here as a new law school grad that thinks I can handle this using my own law related skills. Given the content of the conversation, I will most likely end up begrudgingly consulting a C&F attorney. For the record, the $500+ will hurt me a financially given that I am currently refinancing my student debt and I am therefore on a tight budget.

My only issue is how straight forward this is and that I am failing to see how a C&F attorney could further assist me. I have pulled up my law school application and the exact question it asked me was, "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense, or is any charge now pending against you for any crime other than a traffic violation?" Which I answered "No." Consolidated Laws of New York's ("CPL code") 720.35(1) reads "A youthful offender adjudication is not a judgment of conviction for a crime or any other offense, and does not operate as a disqualification of any person so adjudged to hold public office or public employment or to receive any license granted by public authority but shall be deemed a conviction only for the purposes of transfer of supervision and custody pursuant to section [259(m)]." NYcourts.gov further explains that, "A youthful offender record is not a criminal record. It is automatically sealed and does not have to be reported on any applications for college or work as a criminal conviction. It does not disqualify the YO from holding public office, or public jobs."

To me this does not seem like an interpretation of the law at all, it is rather a black law issue which is clearly in my favor. And since this was all in NY and I am applying for admission in NY, I would assume that the admission board is familiar with this issue.

However, as stated above, I will most likely take the better safe than sorry path. Thank you all for the posts, and additional posts are of course welcomed and appreciated.
OP - I understand not wanting to pay $500. This is why I think that maybe just talking to an experienced C&F attorney in your jurisdiction is a better idea.

I doubt that an experienced C&F attorney would charge you much, if anything, to simply answer your question. They shouldn't have to do any research, they will know if it is or isn't an issue based on their actual experience in your specific jurisdiction.

I think that answer would be more reliable and shouldn't cost you much, if any money. I think attorneys who have a long standing practice are, by and large, decent people who aren't going to fear monger just to get $500 from you for a letter you don't need.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Moabit » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:22 pm

QContinuum wrote: It's kind of astonishing to me that a lawyer would actively suggest that other folks facing legal issues - issues they have zero prior experience handling - should proceed pro se.
The lawyer in question does not beileve that OP is facing any legal issues (in this case not until the bar says so) or, perhaps we can say that the lawyer has failed to spot them.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Halp » Mon Dec 02, 2019 4:02 pm

Moabit wrote:
QContinuum wrote: It's kind of astonishing to me that a lawyer would actively suggest that other folks facing legal issues - issues they have zero prior experience handling - should proceed pro se.
The lawyer in question does not beileve that OP is facing any legal issues (in this case not until the bar says so) or, perhaps we can say that the lawyer has failed to spot them.
But...you’re not a C&F attorney. (And no, being a lawyer and giving people advice once or twice on a forum doesn’t count as experience as a C&F lawyer).

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QContinuum

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by QContinuum » Mon Dec 02, 2019 6:26 pm

Halp wrote:
Moabit wrote:
QContinuum wrote: It's kind of astonishing to me that a lawyer would actively suggest that other folks facing legal issues - issues they have zero prior experience handling - should proceed pro se.
The lawyer in question does not beileve that OP is facing any legal issues (in this case not until the bar says so) or, perhaps we can say that the lawyer has failed to spot them.
But...you’re not a C&F attorney. (And no, being a lawyer and giving people advice once or twice on a forum doesn’t count as experience as a C&F lawyer).
Seconding Halp. This isn't about issue spotting, or about raw lawyering ability, or even general lawyering experience. It's about having experience specifically with handling C&F issues in a particular jurisdiction, a very unique and niche area of practice. What seems problematic/not problematic from a "common sense" POV often means little in the C&F context, which can be - depending on the jurisdiction, and on the particular reviewer - incredibly bureaucratic and cumbersome.

For many/most legal areas, basic lawyering skills are fairly transferable, but C&F is kind of an exception (like trusts & estates law, or patent prosecution).

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Westpalm124 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:03 am

If your record is sealed and you checked “no” on your law school app, then you are in the right. You have to tell the bar about it though. Sealed means sealed unless an app specifically says to mention sealed matters...There is too much at stake though! Call a C&F attorney ASAP to relieve that anxiety!

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by LSATWiz.com » Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:26 pm

QContinuum wrote:
Halp wrote:
Moabit wrote:
QContinuum wrote: It's kind of astonishing to me that a lawyer would actively suggest that other folks facing legal issues - issues they have zero prior experience handling - should proceed pro se.
The lawyer in question does not beileve that OP is facing any legal issues (in this case not until the bar says so) or, perhaps we can say that the lawyer has failed to spot them.
But...you’re not a C&F attorney. (And no, being a lawyer and giving people advice once or twice on a forum doesn’t count as experience as a C&F lawyer).
Seconding Halp. This isn't about issue spotting, or about raw lawyering ability, or even general lawyering experience. It's about having experience specifically with handling C&F issues in a particular jurisdiction, a very unique and niche area of practice. What seems problematic/not problematic from a "common sense" POV often means little in the C&F context, which can be - depending on the jurisdiction, and on the particular reviewer - incredibly bureaucratic and cumbersome.

For many/most legal areas, basic lawyering skills are fairly transferable, but C&F is kind of an exception (like trusts & estates law, or patent prosecution).
I agree the answer is to consult a C&F attorney, but what many people giving this advice don't realize is that C&F issues are very subjective and largely depend on the specific people reviewing your candidacy. In addition, C&F lawyers vary in the advice they give pertaining to C&F issues that aren't cut and dry. I think getting a C&F lawyer takes a lot of stress away, but the advice and level of concern a lawyer will give or have regarding your admission will vary significantly. One will say you may be significantly delayed, another will say it's no issue, another will say it's somewhere in between because they're all going off of their experience in similar cases, which vary case by case. The three pieces of advice that every C&F lawyer will give are disclose any information you need to disclose, stick to the facts, and don't ramble. This isn't C&F advice - just an observation of how these things play out based on anecdotal experience.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by QContinuum » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:41 pm

LSATWiz.com wrote:I agree the answer is to consult a C&F attorney, but what many people giving this advice don't realize is that C&F issues are very subjective and largely depend on the specific people reviewing your candidacy. In addition, C&F lawyers vary in the advice they give pertaining to C&F issues that aren't cut and dry. I think getting a C&F lawyer takes a lot of stress away, but the advice and level of concern a lawyer will give or have regarding your admission will vary significantly.
Yes, this is why it's critical to consult a good, experienced C&F lawyer in the jurisdiction in question. The best C&F lawyers are the ones who've been on the other side, handling C&F for the relevant state bar in the past. They will know, through direct experience, what the bar is looking for and how best to respond. These lawyers tend to be very pricey but it is well worth hiring them.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 09, 2020 12:45 pm

OP here, as an update, I passed the admission process without a C&F lawyer and without any delays/issues. I wrote my own addendum in which I explained my reasoning and I cited the statutes that I was relying on. This is in no way advice for someone else not to obtain a lawyer.

To add color, I spoke with a few C&F lawyers and they were all very vague when I asked them if I actually needed to worry about this, and the prices were pretty high ($700 to review my completed admission packet). Given my particular situation, I felt strongly that I was not required to disclose this information at any time prior to this instance (e.g. college, law school, or job applications). Understand that my case was also dismissed, and I provided the court papers to prove this, so I technically was never convicted of anything. My interviewer asked me about the incident, but did not seem overly concerned and approved me very quickly.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by rcharter1978 » Tue Jun 09, 2020 7:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 12:45 pm
OP here, as an update, I passed the admission process without a C&F lawyer and without any delays/issues. I wrote my own addendum in which I explained my reasoning and I cited the statutes that I was relying on. This is in no way advice for someone else not to obtain a lawyer.

To add color, I spoke with a few C&F lawyers and they were all very vague when I asked them if I actually needed to worry about this, and the prices were pretty high ($700 to review my completed admission packet). Given my particular situation, I felt strongly that I was not required to disclose this information at any time prior to this instance (e.g. college, law school, or job applications). Understand that my case was also dismissed, and I provided the court papers to prove this, so I technically was never convicted of anything. My interviewer asked me about the incident, but did not seem overly concerned and approved me very quickly.
Congratulations! I'm glad it went well and smoothly! It sounds like you kinda disclosed, but you clearly weren't trying to hide anything.

And I think that's the biggest issue for the c&f, the lack of candor.

My c&f issue revolved around a question that was similar to, but not exactly the same as one on my law school application. The actual substance of the question didn't matter, but the fact that I might have lied on my law school application intentionally was the concern.

$700 to just review your application is pretty spendy. I remember giving a $2000 retainer and the letter they drafted cost me $500 and it was over.

But the fee structure for representation was absolutely bananas if it went beyond that initial phase. And I think that's part of the reason why I always tell people to consult an attorney and try to nip it in the bud.

Because I'm a well intentioned and fairly honest person had i written my own response without any help, I think my response would not have reflected an understanding of why this was a serious situation and I wouldn't have known which codes to cite, etc etc. And then I would have likely ended up in an informal conference situation and had to pay tons more and wasted time.

But, having said all that, welcome to the bar! Not sure how swearing in happens in the days of COVID, but enjoy it!

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by sleeplessindc » Wed Jun 10, 2020 6:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 12:45 pm
OP here, as an update, I passed the admission process without a C&F lawyer and without any delays/issues. I wrote my own addendum in which I explained my reasoning and I cited the statutes that I was relying on. This is in no way advice for someone else not to obtain a lawyer.

To add color, I spoke with a few C&F lawyers and they were all very vague when I asked them if I actually needed to worry about this, and the prices were pretty high ($700 to review my completed admission packet). Given my particular situation, I felt strongly that I was not required to disclose this information at any time prior to this instance (e.g. college, law school, or job applications). Understand that my case was also dismissed, and I provided the court papers to prove this, so I technically was never convicted of anything. My interviewer asked me about the incident, but did not seem overly concerned and approved me very quickly.

OP, have you thought about asking your law school's personal responsibility / legal ethics professor? I vaguely recall reading some suggestions about that as an initial option, but I can't remember if others thought that was a good or bad idea.

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Re: Character and Fitness Issue

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 10, 2020 7:05 pm

sleeplessindc wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 6:06 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 12:45 pm
OP here, as an update, I passed the admission process without a C&F lawyer and without any delays/issues. I wrote my own addendum in which I explained my reasoning and I cited the statutes that I was relying on. This is in no way advice for someone else not to obtain a lawyer.

To add color, I spoke with a few C&F lawyers and they were all very vague when I asked them if I actually needed to worry about this, and the prices were pretty high ($700 to review my completed admission packet). Given my particular situation, I felt strongly that I was not required to disclose this information at any time prior to this instance (e.g. college, law school, or job applications). Understand that my case was also dismissed, and I provided the court papers to prove this, so I technically was never convicted of anything. My interviewer asked me about the incident, but did not seem overly concerned and approved me very quickly.

OP, have you thought about asking your law school's personal responsibility / legal ethics professor? I vaguely recall reading some suggestions about that as an initial option, but I can't remember if others thought that was a good or bad idea.
No, I did not reach out to my legal ethics professor. To be honest I thought it would be pretty awkward essentially asking for free legal advice. Not to mention, being a legal ethics professor they would give me all the worst rules I may have violated. Bottom line is, I felt that’s they would have told to seek an attorney and they would have been very cautious not to give me any legal advice.

Again I think my situation was unique and pretty blank and white. The NY courts website actually says “you do not need to list this offense on any school/college/job applications”.

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