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Law School Case Brief

Hall v. Comm. of Bar Exam'rs - 25 Cal. 3d 730, 159 Cal. Rptr. 848, 602 P.2d 768 (1979)

Rule:

Under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6060(c), the applicant bears the burden of proving his good moral character. Once the applicant has furnished enough evidence of good character to establish a prima facie case, the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar may attempt to rebut that showing.

Facts:

Petitioner Willis Hall graduated from Western State University College of Law in 1976. In December 1976, the Committee of the Bar Examiners of the State Bar informed him that he had passed the Fall 1976 bar examination, but that certification would be withheld pending its investigation of his moral character. The Committee's decision to refuse Hall certification rested primarily on three findings: (1) In 1974 the Bureau disciplined Hall in his capacity as manager of an employment agency for four incidents occurring in 1972-1974 that allegedly involved unethical fee collection practices; 2) Hall's testimony concerning those incidents demonstrated a lack of remorse as to the alleged wrongdoing; (3) Hall lacked the candor and respect for the law demanded of a practicing attorney. Hall sought the review of the action of the Committee. Hall contended that the record in his case belied the Committee's conclusion.

Issue:

1. Did the petitioner made a prima facie case the he was in compliance with the good moral character requirement for Bar certification?

2. Was the body of evidence of bad moral character sufficient to rebut the prima facie case for good moral character?

Answer:

1. Yes. 2. No.

Conclusion:

1. The Court held that the uncontradicted evidence of good moral character presented by Hall clearly establishes the requisite prima facie case. Hall submitted proof that he served in the Air Force and commanded during the Korean War. He also showed that he was a good husband and a father. Hall also presented two witnesses who testified that Hall possessed good moral character. For the Court, this body of evidence successfully established a prima facie case in favor of Hall.

2. The Court held that the body of evidence showed that Hall was entitled to be certified to the practice of law. The Bureau charged Hall for harassing calls in order to collect fees. Bureau also charged him of delaying to make a refund to a client. Hall explained that according to his knowledge at that time, the client was not entitled to a refund. In addition, the Bureau charged Hall for improperly soliciting a fee from his client. Lastly, the Bureau charged Hall made several calls to Century Design regarding payment, and on one occasion used "subterfuge and a false name" to gain access to Olbrich, a person he referred to fulfill a position as an engineer, in an attempt to expedite payment. The Court considered that the fact that six years have elapsed since the last of the four incidents took place, during which time no complaints of any kind have been lodged against Hall with the Bureau or any other agency. Even if Hall did behave in the manner described in the Bureau's findings, then the record contains no evidence that he has continued to engage in such conduct. Moreover, the evidence introduced by Hall at the subcommittee hearing effectively established that the attitude which the Committee perceived as a "lack of remorse" reflected his good faith belief in his innocence as to the Bureau's charges rather than any absence of respect for the judicial process. Nothing in the record suggested that Hall did not accept the binding legal effect of the Bureau's determination; he did not violate the terms of the suspension, nor did he continue to engage in activity of the sort which the Bureau had found improper. The Court ordered the Committee of Bar Examiners to certify petitioner Hall as one qualified to be admitted to practice of law.

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