Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The Louisiana Supreme Court decided three bar admission matters that provide insight into the operation of bar character and fitness requirements.
The first matter involved an applicant's third petition for bar admission was denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The court rejected a commissioner's initially favorable recommendation, remanded and agreed with its Committee on Bar Admissions that the applicant's unauthorized practice of law and improper fee sharing agreement with an attorney employer demonstrated a lack of good moral character:
...petitioner negotiated personal injury settlements on behalf of [the lawyer's] clients and represented the clients during recorded statements taken by insurance companies. When performed by a non-lawyer such as petitioner, these tasks constitute the unauthorized practice of law. Moreover, we find petitioner has entered into an impermissible fee sharing arrangement with [the attorney]. Such an arrangement violates Rule 5.4(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
In the second matter, the court, over three dissents, denied admission to an applicant and briefly assigned reasons relating to delinquent credit accounts, a petition for domestic abuse protection filed by his former wife, and "allegations of misconduct by petitioner during law school as well as during his subsequent employment as a judicial law clerk."
The main dissent is far more revealing regarding the underlying facts. The petitioner had participated in law school graduation but was four credit hours short at the time. He completed three hours that summer and was allowed to write a research paper for the last credit hour. He "resisted and procrastinated" and turned in a paper that the professor found "poorly written and unacceptable." The assignment was completed after more delay. Later, the professor received information that the petitioner had asked someone else to write the paper. The professor had suspicions of a ghost writer but no proof. The main dissenting justice found that the offer had been made in jest.
The main dissent also found insufficient evidence of misconduct while a judicial clerk. The petitioner had cooperated in an investigation of the judge he clerked for arising out of the judge's alcoholism. The petitioner asserted that his termination was pretextual and in retaliation for his cooperation. The dissent found no reliable evidence of misconduct as a judicial clerk.
Two other justices would conditionally admit, noting that the appointed commissioner had recommended admission.
In the third matter, the court granted conditional admission for five years to an applicant who had been denied conditional admission in 2007. The lawyer had disclosed a history of suibstance abuse and ongoing treatment. (Mike Frisch)