LACK OF CANDOR
There are two governing principles on candor. The first principle is contained in the statements appearing on the Bar Application.
The first statement, you are required to hand write at the end of the Bar Application. The second statement appears as the jurat that you swear to, then sign, and have the document notarized as a whole.
Candor is absolute honesty – that is, telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even when it is embarrassing or uncomfortable for you.
The importance of candor cannot be overly emphasized. You need to be candid in your dealings with your law school, candid with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, candid with creditors, and candid in all your personal and professional communications.
The second governing principle on candor is pronouncements from the Supreme Court of Florida. In the cases cited here, the Court said that lack of candor is intolerable and disqualifying and that nothing is more important for admission than truthfulness and candor.
In one example, applicant 1 lied on her law school application about her history of traffic violations leading to the suspension of her Florida driver’s license. To circumvent the impending suspension, she got a South Carolina license using her maiden name, then obtained a new Florida license using her married name by failing to disclose the previous suspension of the license issued in her maiden name. She was denied admission to The Florida Bar.
In the second example, applicant 2 lied on his bar application and during his investigative hearing before the board. In the third example, applicant 3 demonstrated a lack of candor in his dealings with his law school and the board.
Consider the example of applicant 4. On his bar application, in response to questions concerning arrests, he wrote “N/A.” When asked by the board why the failure to disclose eight juvenile arrests among other things, the applicant replied at a hearing that “N/A” meant “Not Available,” because the records giving the details needed to explain the arrests were not available when he was rushing to file his application by the deadline. The Court accepted the board’s recommendation and decided that applicant 5’s explanation was not acceptable and that applicant 5 would not be admitted.
Note that throughout these examples the lack of candor is not limited to the Bar Application. There are examples where the lack of candor is with your law school or on other applications (i.e., driver’s license). It is the board’s recommendation that you consider this carefully now and determine if there are omissions or misstatements that need to be corrected in those venues as well. If so, the time to make corrections or clarifications is now. Waiting until the board advises you to amend your application – to right the wrong – will only exacerbate the problem.
A second area of concern relates to criminal records. Here are two important guidelines that will serve you in completing the Bar Application should you have criminal history to report.
Carefully review the instructions for Items 19–23 when completing the Bar Application. Florida Statutes specifically list candidates for admission to The Florida Bar as an exception to restrictions placed on sealed or expunged records – meaning that, regardless of any legal advice to the contrary, sealed and expunged criminal records must be revealed to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.
Applicants have been denied admission for deceptively or fraudulently discharging debts in bankruptcy proceedings, and avoiding rather than properly deferring student loans. The board does not require applicants to be current with all creditors and does not serve as a collection agency. Rather, the board requires honesty in dealing with creditors, and does not look favorably on attempts to deceive or hide from them.
Consider the case of applicant 7 who failed to pay taxes and wrote over 40 worthless checks. And applicant 8 who failed to make Court-ordered child support payments, choosing instead to study abroad and to lease a sports car.
Applicants have also been denied admission for deceptively or fraudulently discharging debts in bankruptcy proceedings, and avoiding rather than properly deferring student loans. The board does not require applicants to be current with all creditors and does not serve as a collection agency. Rather, the board requires honesty in dealing with creditors, and does not look favorably on attempts to deceive or hide from them.
UNTREATED SUBSTANCE ABUSE and/or MENTAL ILLNESS
A final all-too-prevalent concern is untreated substance abuse or mental illness. For example, the board considered the case of a law school graduate who passed the Bar examination, but who was dependent on a variety of substances, including Valium and Methadone. The board required treatment before the Bar Application could be reconsidered.
In another case, the board granted conditional admission to an applicant who had a history of public intoxications, and DUIs. You may think, well the applicant was admitted, although conditionally. But there is an important difference between admission with and admission without conditions.
With conditional admission for substance abuse, the applicant has to submit to random urinalysis, and to participate in and provide regular reports from a monitor for up to 5 years. The failure to meet any condition can be grounds for immediate revocation of the license to practice law. Conditional admission is also available for a person suffering from a major mental illness and the conditions will include continued appropriate treatment.
If you think you have a problem with dependence on alcohol or another substance, the board encourages you to seek the services of Florida Lawyers Assistance.