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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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