Friday, April 22, 2022

Applicant Who Passed Bar Exam On Twentieth Try Denied Admission On Character And Fitness Grounds

An applicant who had passed the Bar examination on the twentieth try was denied admission on character and fitness grounds by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Porter graduated from an accredited law school in 1985. He has applied for admission to the Massachusetts bar multiple times, most recently in December of 2013, and, on the bar examination administered in February of 2014, he earned for the first time a passing score. 

The full court affirmed the conclusions of a single justice.

One issue involved his work with an attorney who was sanctioned for his association with the applicant

A significant focus of concern for the board, for the single justice, and for us is Porter's conduct while he worked as a paralegal at Hrones's law firm. As Porter points out, he was not a party to the disciplinary case against Hrones, and therefore he was not precluded from showing that he did not in fact engage in the unauthorized practice of law and other misconduct described in Matter of Hrones, 457 Mass. at 851, 853-854. That said, many of the central facts that were described in the Hrones decision were left undisputed by Porter after the hearing in this case. Porter affirmatively acknowledged, for example, that he signed Hrones's name on an affidavit, accepted clients, negotiated fees, filed complaints, drafted pleadings, conducted discovery, advised clients as to their legal rights, settled cases, and performed other legal work. See id. at 846.

There was ample support for the board's determination that Porter's mishandling of clients' cases at Hrones's law firm led to adverse consequences for clients. In addition, on at least one occasion, Porter kept client retainer funds for personal use.

The Hrones decision is linked here.

Past criminal conduct

We recognize that some, perhaps most, of the criminal charges appear to have been dismissed, and the underlying facts on which they were based are not entirely clear from the record. The incidents also are all more than ten years old at this point. Nonetheless, as the board found, Porter pleaded guilty to at least one crime and admitted to sufficient facts with respect to a charge of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, involving an attempt to repossess his motor vehicle.

Present fitness

In Porter's favor, we acknowledge, as did the board and the single justice, his efforts to demonstrate rehabilitation. Those efforts included participating in continuing legal education programs and reading various treatises and appellate court decisions. Those steps, however, are not sufficient to tip the balance in this case.

The oral argument (in which the applicant presents a very professional pro se argument which supplies the 20th time number) is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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