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Law School Case Brief

In re Menna - 11 Cal. 4th 975, 47 Cal. Rptr. 2d 2, 905 P.2d 944 (1995)

Rule:

The burden of proof of good moral character is substantially more rigorous for an attorney seeking reinstatement than for a first time applicant. The person seeking reinstatement after disbarment is required to adduce stronger proof of his present honesty and integrity than one seeking admission for the first time whose character has never been in question. In other words, although an application for reinstatement is treated by the court as a proceeding for admission, the proof presented must be sufficient to overcome our prior adverse judgment. Thus, an applicant for reinstatement must show by the most clear and convincing evidence that efforts made towards rehabilitation have been successful. An applicant, having been disbarred in another state, stands in essentially identical circumstances to a disbarred California attorney seeking reinstatement, and the evidence of rehabilitation should therefore be evaluated under the same rigorous standards.

Facts:

Joseph Menna was permanently disbarred from the practice of law in New Jersey as a result of his felony convictions for theft of client funds, failure to file a state income tax return, and manufacture of methamphetamine. Subsequent to his disbarment, he moved to California, passed the bar examination, and sought admission to the State Bar. After a preliminary investigation, the Committee of Bar Examiners declined to recommend him for admission and referred the matter for a formal hearing before the State Bar Court. Following an evidentiary hearing, the Hearing Department of the State Bar Court determined Menna possessed the requisite good moral character to be certified for admission to the Bar. The Review Department of the State Bar Court affirmed. Pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 952.6, the Committee of Bar Examiners sought review.

Issue:

Did Menna, who had been previously disbarred in the State of New Jersey, possess the requisite good moral character to be admitted to the California Bar?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court found that Menna, having been permanently disbarred in another state, was required to show by the most clear and convincing evidence that his efforts of rehabilitation were successful, the same standard as if he were an attorney seeking reinstatement. The Court found that, although there was substantial evidence of Menna's recovery from compulsive gambling and the testimonials on his behalf were impressive, the record evidence did not show such overwhelming proof of reform to satisfy the standard for reinstatement. According to the Court, overwhelming proof must include a lengthy period of not only unblemished but exemplary conduct, including proof that applicant was making amends to the victims and the community he harmed. Further, while restitution was a legitimate and substantial factor to be considered, remorse did not demonstrate rehabilitation.

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