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Law School Case Brief

Seide v. Comm. of Bar Exam'rs - 49 Cal. 3d 933, 264 Cal. Rptr. 361, 782 P.2d 602 (1989)


The fundamental question is whether a petitioner is a fit and proper person to be permitted to practice, and that question usually turns upon whether he committed or is likely to continue to commit acts of moral turpitude. When the applicant has previously committed acts of moral turpitude, he must demonstrate that he is rehabilitated and currently possesses the moral qualifications to be a member of the bar. In making this determination we give great weight to both the hearing panel's factual findings and the review department's recommendation. While the applicant bears the burden of showing that the state bar's findings are not supported by the evidence or that its recommendation is erroneous, all reasonable doubts are resolved in his favor. Once the applicant furnishes enough evidence of good moral character to establish a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the bar to rebut that showing with evidence of bad moral character.


The Review Department of the California State Bar Court refused to certify an applicant for admission to the bar on the ground that he lacked good moral character. Such recommendation was based on evidence that from 1975 through 1982, he had been arrested five times for drug-related offenses, and had later been convicted of knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine, and aiding and abetting the distribution of another quantity of cocaine, for which he served time in a federal work camp. Petitioner applicant challenged the decision from the review department of respondent Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California not to certify him to practice law.


Did petitioner establish his good moral character to enable him to be admitted as a member of the bar?




The Supreme Court of California adopted the recommendation of respondent Committee of Bar Examiners that petitioner not be certified to practice law because character evidence alone could not establish good moral character, and petitioner had not fully acknowledged the wrongfulness of his actions. The court found that cocaine trafficking involved acts of moral turpitude and demonstrated bad moral character. That petitioner's primary motivation was financial gain and that he committed the criminal activities after he had acted as a former law enforcement officer discounted his attempts to offer mitigating circumstances. Petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case that he was rehabilitated and of good moral character. Petitioner's primary evidence of rehabilitation consisted of character testimony, which could not alone establish good moral character, and the testimony of character witnesses who were not aware of the extent and seriousness of petitioner's criminal activities carried little weight. Petitioner had not fully acknowledged the wrongfulness of his actions and failed to seek substance abuse counselling.

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