Apologies and Fitness to Practice Law: A Practical Framework for Evaluating Remorse in the Bar Admission Process
Journal of the Professional Lawyer, Forthcoming
62 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2011
Date Written: March 31, 2011
Especially in cases of past criminal conduct, courts have consistently looked to applicants’ remorse in evaluating applications for bar admission. In light of the importance of remorse in the character and fitness process and the difficulty committees — and indeed all of us — face in interpreting the meaning and value of apologetic gestures, this Article develops specific guidelines that committees can use to evaluate whether a bar applicant’s statements of remorse are sufficient to show rehabilitation. It provides an analysis of the inconsistent treatment of apologies and remorse in the character and fitness context and explains the confusing, and often contradictory, meanings conveyed by apologies. Following Nick Smith’s theory of the categorical apology set out in "I Was Wrong," we enumerate thirteen questions that should guide review boards as they evaluate the apologies and remorse of bar applicants. We argue that such a principled framework can lend rigor and consistency to the review process which will, in turn, better serve both the bar and applicants to the bar.
Keywords: bar admission, character and fitness, bar conduct committee, remorse, apology
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