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Law School Case Brief

Willner v. Comm. on Character & Fitness - 373 U.S. 96, 83 S. Ct. 1175 (1963)


Procedural due process often requires confrontation and cross-examination of those whose word deprives a person of his livelihood. That view has been taken by several state courts when it comes to procedural due process and the admission to practice law.


After having repeatedly filed unsuccessful applications for admission to the bar of the state of New York, petitioner filed the present application with the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court requesting leave to file again an application for admission. The Appellate Division denied the petition without opinion. Before the New York Court of Appeals, petitioner argued that he had been denied his constitutional rights in that he had been denied confrontation of his accusers and that he could not be sure of the reasons for which the committee investigating his character had refused to certify him for admission. The Court of Appeals, after oral argument, affirmed the order without opinion, subsequently amending its remittitur to recite that it necessarily passed upon the question whether petitioner had been denied due process of law in violation of the Federal Constitution.


Were the applicant’s constitutional rights violated when he was denied admission to the New York bar without a hearing?




The Court held that petitioner was denied procedural due process when he was denied admission to the bar by the Appellate Division without a hearing on the charges filed against him before either the committee or the Appellate Division. Where, as here, the Appellate Division held no hearings of its own to determine petitioner's character but relied entirely upon the report of the Committee, it cannot escape the requirements of due process by claiming that the Committee's action was merely advisory.

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