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. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  3. Don't believe me, listen to Pacino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6bC9w9cH-M

  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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