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Law School Case Brief

Hallinan v. Comm. of Bar Exam'rs, State Bar - 65 Cal. 2d 447, 55 Cal. Rptr. 228, 421 P.2d 76 (1966)

Rule:

There is certain conduct involving fraud, perjury, theft, embezzlement, and bribery where there is no question but that moral turpitude is involved. On the other hand, because the law does not always coincide exactly with principles of morality there are cases that are crimes that would not necessarily involve moral turpitude. In such cases, investigation into the circumstances surrounding the commission of the act must reveal some independent act beyond the bare fact of a criminal conviction to show that the act demonstrates moral unfitness and justifies exclusion or other disciplinary action by the bar.

Facts:

The Committee of Bar Examiners refused to certify Terence Hallinan for admission to the practice of law on the ground that he was not of good moral character. Hallinan had been involved in a number of civil disobedience incidents and he had also been involved in other physical altercations with others where he had either defended himself or another person.

Issue:

Were the acts involving Hallinan acts of moral turpitude, thus, a ground for excluding him from membership in the legal profession?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court held that every intentional violation of the law was not grounds for excluding an individual from membership in the legal profession and that the question of whether an individual was fit to practice law turned upon whether he had committed or was likely to commit acts of moral turpitude. The court held that the nature of the acts with which Hallinan had been involved were not acts of moral turpitude and that they bore no direct relationship with his fitness to practice law. Committee's conclusion that applicant was unfit was not justified by the record. Committee was ordered to certify Hallinan as qualified to practice law.

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