WHAT TRIGGERS CHARACTER REVIEW

You are probably asking yourself "Why me?" or "What did I do to deserve this?" You are wondering why your friends who passed the same bar you did are now practicing and you are in limbo. Even the wait for the process to unfold is punitive in its own way.

Upon applying for admission to the bar of New Jersey, each applicant must complete a Certified Statement, available online at the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners website (http://www.njbarexams.org). As stated on that website, “candidates are required to demonstrate their fitness by showing the requisite traits of honesty, integrity, fiscal responsibility, trustworthiness, and a professional commitment to the judicial process and the administra-tion of justice.” The Certified Statement must be answered fully and truthfully with all relevant documentation being enclosed. Even if criminal charges were expunged at any level, i.e. from a mere arrest on up, full disclosure MUST be made. A credit report and driver’s abstract must also be submitted. The Committee will order its own copies of these documents to cross check.

The most common problem areas which normally will trigger a Character Committee hearing are listed in Regulation 302:1 of the Regulations (see Resources) . Some examples of offending conduct are: academic dishonesty, unlawful conduct including felonies or even serious motor vehicle violations such as driving while intoxicated, defaults on student loans, domestic violence, financial irresponsibility, acts of moral turpitude, fraud or deception, etc. About the worst offense that can be committed which will always trigger character review and likely result in withholding of certification is non-disclosure. It is absolutely essential to fully and completely disclose all facts about any incidents resulting in affirmative responses to questions on the Certified Statement. When in doubt, disclose. Candor to the Committee and proper demeanor and courtesy are also mandatory.

In reviewing character applications, Committee members will consider the nature and extent of the offending conduct, the age of the applicant at the time when the conduct occurred, remedia-tion of the conduct, absence of supplemental offending conduct, rehabilitative activities, candor/ contrition before the Committee and other relevant factors. (See Regulation 303:7) Please note that any offending conduct committed while an applicant was in law school is reviewed with greater scrutiny. It is presumed that by that time greater maturity in judgment should have occurred. It is also clear that the candidate has the burden to establish by clear and convincing evidence his or her good character and current fitness to practice to be admitted to practice law in New Jersey. (See Regulation 303:6)

The primary authority which guides the Character Committee in its review is found in the semi-nal case of Application of Matthews, 94 N. J. 59 (1983). The following sentence is frequently quoted by the Committee in its written reports: “we conclude that a bar applicant must possess a certain set of traits-honesty and truthfulness, trustworthiness and reliability, and a professional commitment to the judicial process and the administration of justice.” 94 N. J. at 77. I highly recommend that every person reading this blurb on this website review this case in its entirety. Essentially, the Supreme Court wants to make sure you are totally trustworthy before they turn you loose on the public and the judicial system. It is your burden to assist them in achieving that comfort level. My job is to help you do it.

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Compensation Resources
The Committee Triggers NJ Comparison
The Licensing Process What I Can Do How I Get Paid