Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Delayed Not Denied: South Carolina Warns Applicants To Be Truthful On Law School Applications

The South Carolina Supreme Court granted but delayed bar admission to an applicant

Although we accept the Committee's recommendation and grant Applicant's petition for admission, we are troubled by Applicant's lack of candor in his law school application and his subsequent misrepresentations on social media. We therefore find a one-year delay in admission is appropriate and hold that Applicant is not eligible to be admitted until November 14, 2022—one year from the issuance of the Committee's report and recommendation.

Notably, he had jumped the gun on his LinkedIn profile after passing the bar exam

When questioned by this Court about his decision to hold himself out as an attorney untruthfully, Applicant explained he was proud to learn he had passed the bar examination, and in that excitement, he changed his LinkedIn profile to reflect his achievement. Applicant admitted that, at the time he updated his profile, he was employed as a law clerk, that he was neither an associate nor an attorney, and that his representation on LinkedIn was false. Applicant acknowledged that his actions jeopardized not only his own prospects for bar admission, but also risked the law firm's reputation and could have misled members of the public.

Law school disclosures

On his law school application, Applicant responded "no" when asked if he had "ever been charged, arrested, formally accused, or convicted of a crime other than a minor parking or traffic violation." Additionally, he respondent "no" when asked if he had "ever been subjected to disciplinary action by any of the educational institutions" he attended. Those responses were not truthful.

He amended his law school application to disclose a number of criminal issues and

Shortly before the Committee hearing, Applicant amended his bar application to disclose that he had participated in a fraternity prank as an undergraduate. "As part of a tradition, [he] and the other sophomore members of the fraternity took bikes from a dormitory and rode them back to the fraternity house as a prank." They were caught, and the entire fraternity was reprimanded. Additionally, the fraternity was required to complete community service. Applicant's undergraduate institution had no record of the incident when Applicant made a request to the university for information about it.

In the admissions process

During the hearing before the Committee, Applicant testified he did not inform the law school about his arrests for MIP and hindering police because he "was under the impression they were off [his] record and they were expunged." Applicant admitted this was a mistake on his part because the law school application unambiguously required disclosure of expunged offenses.

The Committee's view

In considering Applicant's character and fitness to practice law, the Committee noted the relatively minor nature of Applicant's infractions, most of which occurred about a decade ago while Applicant was young. However, the Committee also acknowledged Applicant's failure to disclose these infractions in his law school application was both more recent and more troubling. The Committee noted Applicant accepted full responsibility for his prior misconduct and appeared genuine in his regret for failing to disclose the matters. Additionally, the Committee found Applicant's disclosure—albeit late in the process—of the fraternity prank as an undergraduate student demonstrated "a sincere attempt to be completely candid with the Committee regarding his past misdeeds." In considering the totality of the information available, the Committee ultimately concluded Applicant possesses the requisite character and fitness to practice law.

The court said that law school application candor is serious business

too many potential applicants continue to interpret application instructions and early warnings in law school of the consequences of nondisclosure as empty threats.

So as the song says From This Moment On

In light of the concerning increase in nondisclosures this Court has seen in recent years and the growing prevalence of social media, today we take the unusual step of publishing our decision in this case while allowing Applicant to remain anonymous. Our goal in doing so is to warn potential law students, law schools, and bar applicants of the serious consequences of nondisclosure and to encourage law school applicants to completely and fully disclose all required information at the time their applications are first submitted. Now that applicants will have the benefit of this published decision, we caution that future nondisclosures and misleading statements will not be viewed with any degree of leniency and may result in this Court's outright denial of admission to practice law.

(Mike Frisch)

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