Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bar Admissions, C&F Reality Check, and the Sad Hastings/Boalt Situation

Posted by Alan Childress

I am just dumbstruck at the naivete of some of the [Gen Y?] commenters (about us and our posts) just now on the Xoxohth message board.  I often wish they were right that we live a world (or bar) with such forgiveness and redemption -- and consequences that extend as far as the beam of a cheap flashlight.  Do I have to be the messenger that says "We do not"?   Am I starting to sound like my Dad now?  By the way, I now know he was right almost all the time he said something like this.

Most of the posters seem to think the Boalt student's legal career is intact and fixable because his transgression did not involve dishonesty or may not result in criminal charges.  Or the threat was obviously a joke.  They do not seem to get that the bar license is still treated as a "privilege" -- and thus that its keepers are the ones who define "character" (much less "dishonesty" and "threat") and consider whether criminal charges even matter for their purposes.  Then one poster writes:

Has anyone even bothered to ask the question of how the C&F will find out about this? It is unlikely that a criminal charge will result, so 'trustafarian' won't have to report it on that part of his bar application. The only way I can see it coming to light is if the law school reports it on the form that gets sent to them. In 2 full years, will Boalttt make a huge deal of this with no charges and time to cool down?

I just have to say Wow to about five parts of that.  The typical LPB reader likely sees two or three more Wow parts but my head is already hurting.  Just one Wow:  you think this student will have a student record at Boalt two years from now?  OK, one more:  Has this student commenter not looked at the 37-page bar application?  You don't think it asks about disciplinary charges short of crimes?  Many make you detail your speeding tickets!  And if you bend the truth on that, you will be excluded for "lack of candor in the application process."  Wake up and smell the white-out.

Oh, and when a responder to that post says that Boalt will have a CYA letter in his file (they will have more, BTW), the original poster responds, "Your idiocy is painful," and adds the F word.  Another poster writes:  "i thought the bar tended to give law students a break? did that one post really show trustafiran to be unfit to practice? i really dont think so and i doubt most state bar comms would."  Yeah, bank on that.  As Mike has cataloged well throughout this blog, bar boards may be giving bad-apple lawyers a break.  On what planet did someone get the impression that they give law students a break?

As for Jeff's excellent point that lawyers-to-be need to process now that lawyer accountability, at odds with anonymity, is "just about 24/7," I would add that their confidence in anonymity is an unbelievable illusion worthy of The Matrix.  They stake their careers and non-incarceration on anonymity?  Several of the messages confidently explain the technology to make a truly anonymous post (and threat).  Even if that is technologically true (and I still call Naive on it), it is foolish to think that the way secrets get revealed in this country is all about technology.  Everyone but me already knew who "Trustafarian" was, in his community, and they did not have to run some IP search to authenticate him. Joe Klein was outed for writing [the great book] Primary Colors by a lowly English professor running a program matching phrases Joe liked to use from time to time.  Unabomber was fingered by his brother after the manifesto was published.  The truly frightening part about 1984 was not the TV set that watched its watchers--it was the neighbors. I simply cannot believe that these aspiring lawyers, whatever the merits of their personalities and culture, readily hinge their entire lives on the hubris of technological cloaks and assume away community daggers.

Note to aspring lawyers re the C&F process:  accountability is "just about 24/7."  And please write everything you post or email as if it is a postcard addressed to the bar with your name in Sharpie instead of the Wish You Were Here part.

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Tracked on Apr 22, 2007 3:47:29 PM

Comments

obviously you are correct. but should this be the case? while the actions of this poster were revolting and in shockingly bad taste, should his entire career be torpedoed because he showed a momentary lapse in judgment? and ultimately, while people were certainly scared by his actions who was hurt?

Posted by: | Apr 22, 2007 10:26:27 AM

Fair question. My own view is that -- assuming that your characterization is accurate that this was one instance of shocking bad taste and that is it, just one lapse of judgment (plus major and sincere genuflecting for the next two years) -- I don't think that should be enough to torpedo his career. I like the fact that he came forward. (BTW, anyone who sees this as an answer to their anonymity cloak misses the point that he may have done so because his community already knew him. Some commenters on Xoxo and WSJ act like he would have gotten away with this if he had just not ratted himself out. Right.)

But I really think it will torpedo his career, or at least sidetrack it so severely that sticking it out may be throwing good money after bad (e.g., job prospects quite apart from licensing). And that is in part because the distinction between scared and hurt you draw will be lost on the bar examiners, both because they studied cases from like AD 1398 holding that scared IS hurt, and because the absence of harm, in any event, is not a huge plus factor for the C&F screening process. Most of the infractions and transgressions that cause people to be denied had no immediate harm.

Posted by: Childress | Apr 22, 2007 11:23:43 AM

National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Request for Preparation of a Character Report, Question 5:

"Have you ever been dropped, suspended, warned, placed on scholastic or disciplinary probation, expelled, requested to resign, allowed to resign in lieu of discipline from any college or university (including law school), or otherwise subjected to discipline by any such institution or advised by any such institution to discontinue your studies therein?"

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Apr 22, 2007 12:42:30 PM

"No."

Posted by: loafer | Apr 22, 2007 1:03:39 PM

Alan,

This is a very important issue. Likewise, I am shocked by the casual attitude toward character and fitness displayed by the autoadmit posters. This incident is a great example of how quickly things can get out of hand, and one that many of our students can relate to. Thanks for pulling together the facts and regulatory burdens.

bh.

Posted by: William Henderson | Apr 23, 2007 12:02:57 PM

I'm dumbfounded: even in the wake of the VT tragedy, many still seem to believe the murder-suicide posting on Autoadmit.com was no more than a harmless joke. That sentiment has become a recurrent theme on various Autoadmit.com threads (none worth citing of course).

Hastings has boosted security for the rest of the school year at no small expense to the state. City and federal law enforcement resources were needlessly wasted to investigate the threat and take precautionary measures. And I and many other Hastings students spent the rest of the day huddled indoors while the blood-soaked imagery of the VT tragedy broadcasted over every major network. It may have been an ill-conceived joke, but by no stretch of the imagination was it harmless.

Posted by: Hastingsite | Apr 24, 2007 12:04:17 AM

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