Felons and attorneys

July 9, 2010
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The newest crop of law school graduates are about to take the July bar exam, except for the ones who are convicted felons.

You can’t be a felon and a lawyer in Indiana but if you are already an attorney and commit a felony, you could keep your license.

It doesn’t make sense to me.

Based on Admission and Discipline Rule 12, anyone convicted of a felony “prima facie” shall be deemed lacking good moral character. As you know, you must have good moral character to join the bar. Possibly there have been exceptions to this, but I imagine it’s a high standard to overcome to prove to the character and fitness committee that your felony record won’t affect your ability to be a lawyer.

What if you committed the felony when you were 18 and you are now 30? You’ve paid your time and in the grand scheme of felonies, it was minor and won’t affect your ability to practice law. I guess you’ll have to prove it.

Something must happen once you become a lawyer because if you don’t have a felony in your past, but commit one while an attorney, you could still remain an attorney. Chances are you’ll be suspended, or disbarred if it’s bad enough, but attorneys who commit felonies can retain their admission to the bar.

Why do the standards for good moral character change? If having a felony deems you “prima facie” lacking in good moral character, shouldn’t being convicted of one while an attorney “prima facie” mean automatic disbarment, and shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the felonious lawyer to prove he/she should get to keep his/her law license? The fact that it’s not this way smells like a double standard to me.

But attorney discipline is fluid and it’s hard to concretely say that “if you do X you’ll receive Y as a punishment.” A lot depends on agreements between the lawyer and the Disciplinary Commission. Sometimes attorneys who appear to have committed more serious offenses are given the same or lesser punishment than one who appears to have committed a less serious offense. But that’s the nature of our disciplinary process. What do you think?
 

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  • It is a rigged system
    For proof see how they processed this 12 year attorney from Kansas, admitted to the SCOTUS, cleared by the National Board of Law Examiners, no felonies, one misdemeanor 20 years ago, reference from federal judge William C. Lee .... but politically incorrect due to my religious faith and thus denied "good moral character" or fitness or for some reason. Rotten in Denmark.

    www.archangelinstitute.org (see Orwell post)

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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