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Law School Case Brief

Hightower v. State Bar - 34 Cal. 3d 150, 193 Cal. Rptr. 153, 666 P.2d 10 (1983)


The burden of proving good moral character is upon the applicant. Pursuant to this rule the applicant must initially furnish enough evidence of good moral character to establish a prima facie case, and the committee then has the opportunity to rebut that showing with evidence of bad character


Before passing the Bar exam, petitioner George Willis Hightower engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by drafting and filing, over the signatures of licensed attorneys who had not given their consent, three complaints. At an initial evidentiary hearing before the Committee of Bar Examiners of respondent State Bar Of California ("Committee"), Hightower admitted his acts but disputed his moral turpitude. The Committee refused to admit Hightower to the Bar due to a lack of good moral character as required by Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 6060, 6062. Hightower reapplied for admission two years later but was denied admission without further development of the facts. Hightower thereafter sought judicial review of the Committee's decision.


Did Hightower prove his good moral character to be admitted to the practice of law?




The state supreme court reversed the Committee's decision and ordered the Committee either to certify Hightower to the state supreme court as one qualified to be admitted to practice law or to hold further hearings on his reapplication if the Committee, in the exercise of its discretion, concluded that further hearings were warranted. The court found that Hightower met his threshold burden of demonstrating that he had good moral character, despite earlier incidents in which he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. While the showing of rehabilitation was not overwhelming, there was substantial evidence of rehabilitation, and the Committee furnished no basis to reject that evidence.

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