California Business and Professions Code §6060 requires that every applicant for admission to the State Bar of California possess good moral character.
The Moral Character Evaluation Process
Law students are sometimes surprised at the extensive disclosures required when they complete the Committee of Bar Examiners application for determination of moral character. Absolute candor in supplying information to the Committee is essential. The extent of disclosure by the applicant of all relevant facts and the applicant’s attitude toward the admissions process can be an important factor. If there is any negative information in an applicant’s background, advice about filling out the moral character application and about presenting the applicant’s side of the story.
The Informal Conference
When the Committee of Bar Examiners has questions regarding the showing of good moral character presented in the written application and subsequent communication, it will often invite the applicant to what it calls an “informal conference” to discuss facts stated in the application and gain an overall impression of the applicant. The term “informal conference” does not convey the importance of this interview. Questioning of the applicant can often be brisk. Preparation for the informal conference is absolutely essential.
Petitioning for Review In State Bar Court
If the Committee decides not to approve an applicant on moral character grounds, that decision can be reviewed by petitioning the State Bar Court. Such a petition is not to be undertaken lightly; the applicant has the burden of proof in this proceeding and it will be vigorously contested by lawyers from the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel in State Bar Court, often through the hearing and review stages and even in the California Supreme Court. An applicant has only a limited time to appeal the denial of moral character application to the State Bar Court. A final negative determination cuts off any new application for two years.