In re Manville

Decision Date28 June 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-1362.,84-1362.
Citation494 A.2d 1289
PartiesIn re Daniel E. MANVILLE An Applicant for Admission to the Bar of This Court.
CourtD.C. Court of Appeals

Robert E. Jordan, III, Washington, D.C., with whom Maureen Ward, Long Beach, Cal., and Frank B. Stilwell, III, Kittering, Ohio, were on the brief, for petitioner.

Lloyd N. Moore Jr., for respondent, Committee on Admissions.

Before PRYOR, Chief Judge, and FERREN and BELSON, Associate Judges.

BELSON, Associate Judge:

Daniel E. Manville applied for admission to the bar of the District of Columbia and passed the written bar examination administered in July of 1982. Following a hearing, the Committee on Admissions divided evenly on whether to recommend his admission, and thus declined to do so. This court then granted Manville 20 days to show cause why his application should not be denied. Having considered his brief and having heard oral argument, we remand to the Committee for its independent investigation of applicant's qualifications, any necessary further hearings, appropriate findings, and a recommendation.


Manville's application presents issues of first impression in this jurisdiction because of his criminal record. For a period of over 2 years, commencing in about 1970, Manville led a life of crime which culminated in his being sentenced in June of 1973 for the offense of voluntary manslaughter. The record before us is the product of Manville's ex parte presentation to the Committee. On that record, the facts concerning his background are undisputed. Manville was honorably discharged following 3 years of military service, including 13 months of service in Korea. After working for a Fisher Body factory in Michigan, he enrolled in 1969 at Central Michigan University and soon became involved in the campus drug culture. In October of 1970, he pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license and served 3 days in jail. In the Summer of 1971 he received misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence of intoxicating beverages and disorderly conduct. The record does not disclose his sentence. About this time, he began to carry a gun habitually and dealt in drugs. In the Summer of 1972 he was arrested for the possession of marijuana and LSD, and subsequently was convicted for possession of those substances for his personal use. He was sentenced to serve 60 days for those offenses.

In the Fall of 1972, Manville transferred to the Flint Branch of the University of Michigan. A student friend asked Manville's assistance in recovering certain drugs and money believed to have been stolen by another student, Doug Edgar. In return for enforcing the first student's claim on the drugs and money, Manville was told he could keep certain stereo equipment which was in Edgar's apartment. Manville recruited his younger brother and another to aid him. In December 1972, they went to Edgar's apartment. Each of the three was armed with a gun, and Manville's brother also carried chloroform, which he is said to have been using "to get high." The three gained admission to Edgar's apartment on the pretext of buying drugs. Once inside, they threatened him with a knife and pistol-whipped him in an effort to secure the return of the drugs and money Edgar was supposed to have. Two acquaintances of Edgar showed up at the apartment while these events were occurring. Manville decided to use the chloroform to render the visitors unconscious lest they learn of the nature of his visit to Edgar. He also chloroformed Edgar. The administration of the chloroform killed one of the two visitors. Manville evaded arrest for 4 months.

Manville was indicted for first and second-degree murder and felony murder, but entered into a plea bargain pursuant to which he cooperated with the Michigan authorities in connection with campus drug activities and entered a plea of guilty to voluntary manslaughter. In May 1973, he received a sentence of 54 months to 15 years in prison.

While in prison, Manville assumed the role of "jailhouse lawyer." In his own behalf, he filed state and federal collateral attacks on his manslaughter conviction and on his previous conviction for possession of LSD and marijuana. He also engaged in activities indicative of rehabilitation and self-reformation. He completed work on his bachelor of science degree and also earned a degree as a bachelor of general studies. He took a course in substance abuse and then assisted in teaching that course. He also tutored other inmates in mathematics and science. He participated in group psychological therapy, and became a co-therapist.

Upon his parole in September 1976, Manville entered a paralegal training program. He also worked for the Head Start Program in Lansing, Michigan, and assisted families with landlord-tenant and welfare problems. In the Summer of 1977, he served an internship with a Chicago program formed to combat racial bias. He then enrolled at Michigan State University in a master's program in criminal justice, and also worked as a teaching assistant at several colleges.

After his parole ended in May of 1979, he enrolled at Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. He completed the course of studies there and engaged at the same time in numerous extracurricular activities, including serving as editor of the Prison Law Monitor, a national publication concerned with the criminal justice system. He also worked as a part-time law clerk in a local law firm. He completed his studies at Antioch one semester early. The record contains no indication of criminal behavior, drug abuse, or other antisocial behavior since appellant's commitment to prison in June of 1973. His efforts to secure a pardon, however, have been thus far unsuccessful. This appears to be due, in part at least, to the fact that the parole board's guidelines for recommending pardons require that at least 6 years have elapsed since discharge from parole. At the time of oral argument, that period had not elapsed.

Manville then took and passed the July 1982 D.C. bar examination. Subsequently, he met informally with the Moral Character Subcommittee of the Committee on Admissions. After the subcommittee declined to recommend his admission, he sought and received from the full Committee a formal hearing on the issue of his good moral character. At the evidentiary hearing before the committee, Manville presented testimony or affidavits from over 20 persons, including lawyers, paralegals, and law professors, who have known him since his release from prison. All were aware of the fact of his prior convictions, although apparently not the details. All who expressed a view on the ultimate issue before the Committee opined that he is at this time a person of good moral character and fit for admission to the bar. The judge who sentenced Manville for manslaughter wrote the Committee a letter in which he stated: "I was of the opinion then and now that he did not intend to cause death." He concluded. "As far as I am concerned, he has paid his legal debt to society for his unlawful conduct. . . . If you find him to be sincere and trustworthy, I certainly would not criticize you if you were to grant him admission to the bar."

After taking the matter under advisement, the six members of the Committee (there was one vacancy) divided evenly on the application. Each group of three members submitted a report. Since there was not a majority in favor of a recommendation, the court issued an order to show cause why his application for admission to the bar should not be denied. Counsel for Manville submitted a brief, and the court heard oral argument.


Before considering Manville's application, we address briefly the nature of this court's authority regarding admissions to the bar. It is, ultimately, for this court to decide whether an applicant shall be admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia.1 Pursuant to its statutory grant of authority,2 this court has created a seven-member Committee on Admissions to process and consider applications for admission, to administer the bar examination, and to certify to this court those persons whose applications the Committee approves. D.C.App.R. 46 (1985 Supp.).3 Our rules provide that where an applicant requests review by this court, as Manville has, "[p]roceedings in court under this Rule shall be heard by the court on the record made by the Committee on Admissions." D.C.App.R. 46(f)(4). Since neither the rule nor usual appellate practice contemplates our taking evidence or finding facts, we accept findings of fact made by the Committee unless they are unsupported by substantial evidence of record. See In re Heller, 333 A.2d 401, 402 (D.C.) (per curiam), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 840, 96 S.Ct. 70, 46 L.Ed.2d 59 (1975).4 We also make due allowance for the Committee's opportunity to observe and evaluate the demeanor of the applicant where relevant, e.g., with regard to such attitudes as sincerity or remorse. Finally, we afford the Committee's recommendations some deference, since the Committee has been constituted as an arm of this court to deal regularly with issues concerning admissions to the bar and exists for the express purpose of making recommendations to the court. Nevertheless, the ultimate decision regarding admission or denial of admission remains for this court to make.

We have not made any specific provision in our rules for independent investigations by the Committee. As a result, the Committee normally makes its record upon the ex parte presentation of the applicant and, where a formal hearing is held, upon its examination of the applicant and applicant's witnesses. This was the procedure followed by the Committee on Manville's application. Yet, as Counsel to the Committee acknowledged at oral argument, the Committee has the inherent power to conduct independent investigations, and is aware that it can incur the expenses necessary to do so.

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    ...has present fitness to practice law. See In re Application of Pagano, 207 Conn. 336, 345, 541 A.2d 104 (1988); accord In re Manville, 494 A.2d 1289, 1295 (D.C.App.1985); In re Application of Allan S., supra, 282 Md. at 690, 387 A.2d 271; In re Haukebo, 352 N.W.2d 752, 754 (Minn.1984); Appli......
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