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Law School Case Brief

In re Hamm - 211 Ariz. 458, 123 P.3d 652 (2005)

Rule:

Under Ariz. Sup. Ct. R. 36(a)3, the Supreme Court of Arizona's concern must be with an applicant's present moral character. It is the applicant's moral character as of now with which the Supreme Court is concerned. Past misconduct, however, is not irrelevant. Rather, the Supreme Court must determine what past bad acts reveal about an applicant's current character.

Facts:

Some 30 years earlier, petitioner applicant Hamm was convicted of a murder. He earned a bachelor's degree while imprisoned. After his release, but while he was on parole, the applicant was accepted to law school, which he successfully completed. He passed the Arizona bar examination and, in 2004, filed his Character and Fitness Report with the Committee on Character and Fitness. The Committee denied the application for admission to the State Bar of Arizona because the applicant failed to convince it of his good moral character. The aggrieved applicant petitioned for review.

Issue:

Whether the applicant for the bar has established the good moral character, which includes the applicant's candor in the admissions process, necessary to be admitted to the practice of law in Arizona.

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Arizona denied petitioner's application to be admitted to the Bar because the applicant failed to show he was of the good moral character, as required by Ariz. Sup. Ct. R. 34. Under the Rules that define the requirements for admission to the Bar, an applicant bears the burden of establishing his or her good moral character. In determining whether an applicant's prior conduct indicates a lack of good moral character, the Committee must consider a non-exhaustive list of factors, one of which is the applicant's candor in the admissions process. The Court found that the applicant demonstrated a lack of candor before the Court and the Committee. The Court further noted the applicant's failure to accept full responsibility for his serious criminal misconduct. Also, the applicant failed to accept responsibility for parental financial obligations to his son, who was born before the applicant went to prison. The Court concluded that the applicant had not met the stringent standard that applied to an applicant in his position who sought to show his present good moral character. Finally, the Court noted that the applicant had received a full opportunity to be heard.

As for a standard of review, the Court explained that it independently determines whether an applicant possesses good moral character and, based upon that determination, grants or denies the candidate's application. Although the Court gives serious consideration to the facts as found by and the recommendation of the Committee, the ultimate decision rests with the Supreme Court of Arizona.

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