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March v. Comm. of Bar Exam'rs - 67 Cal. 2d 718, 63 Cal. Rptr. 399, 433 P.2d 191 (1967)

Rule:

The findings of the Committee of Bar Examiners (committee) are given great weight but are not binding on the California Supreme Court, and the burden of showing that the findings are not supported by the evidence or that the committee's action is erroneous or unlawful is on the petitioner. The California Supreme Court examines and weighs the evidence and passes upon its sufficiency, and any reasonable doubts are resolved in favor of the petitioner. The fundamental question to be determined is the same whether the matter at issue relates to an applicant for admission or an attorney upon whom discipline has been imposed: Is the petitioner a fit and proper person to be permitted to practice law, and the answer to this usually turns upon whether he has committed or is likely to continue to commit acts of moral turpitude.

Facts:

Petitioner Herbert March was adjudged by the Committee of Bar Examiners as being unqualified for admission to practice law in California because he had not shown himself to possess good moral character within the meaning of the Cal. Rules Regulating Admission to Practice Law, R. X, § 101. The committee based its conclusion on the facts that the petitioner testified falsely under oath before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding his prior membership in the Communist party, that he made numerous false statements to a union trial committee, and that he had not mentioned or explained the false testimonies in his registration as a law student or on his application for the bar examination and admission. Petitioner appealed.

Issue:

Did the petitioner fail to show that he possesses good moral character within the meaning of the Cal. Rules Regulating Admission to Practice Law, R. X, § 101?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court ordered that the committee certify the petitioner as one qualified to be admitted to practice law in the state of California. On review, the Court held that the petitioner had conducted himself in a frank manner throughout the bar proceedings by admitting his false testimony and conceding his improper actions. The Court reviewed in detail the recommendations attesting to the petitioner’s good moral character, his personal history, and experience and concluded that the petitioner had carried his burden under Rule 101. In his bar applications, the petitioner had provided adequate information on his previous activities and adequate references to inform the committee of his previous falsehoods.

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