McLaughlin, Application of

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtHANDLER
Citation675 A.2d 1101,144 N.J. 133
PartiesIn the Matter of the Application of Frank B. McLAUGHLIN, for Admission to the Bar of New Jersey.
Decision Date20 May 1996

Page 133

144 N.J. 133
675 A.2d 1101
In the Matter of the Application of Frank B. McLAUGHLIN, for
Admission to the Bar of New Jersey.
Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Argued Nov. 28, 1995.
Decided May 20, 1996.

Thomas J. McCormick, Assistant Ethics Counsel on behalf of the Committee on Character.

Philip A. Nemecek, a member of the New York bar on behalf of respondent, New York City (Andrew B. Lane, attorney; Frank B. McLaughlin, pro se, on the brief).

The opinion of the court was delivered by

HANDLER, J.

This is a bar-admissions case. It arises from the report and recommendation of the Supreme Court Committee on Character that the required certification of good character be withheld from a candidate for the July 1994 New Jersey Bar Examination. The recommendation was based on the Committee's conclusion that the candidate did not demonstrate the fitness and good character essential for the practice of law.

The case requires the Court to explain the standards for evaluating character and fitness for the practice of law, and to reemphasize the importance of these requisites for admission to the bar. More specifically, the Court must address truthfulness and respect for the administration of justice as traits of character and fitness that are deemed indispensable to a lawyer.

I

Frank B. McLaughlin sat for the July 1994 New Jersey Bar Exam. Mr. McLaughlin ("McLaughlin" or "candidate") was a graduate of Rutgers Law School-Newark [675 A.2d 1103] where he was Book Review Editor of the Rutgers Law Review. Before attending law school, McLaughlin was a claims analyst for American Reinsurance in Princeton,

Page 137

New Jersey, from October 1988 to September 1991. Following his graduation from law school, he completed and submitted his application to sit for the July exam on May 29, 1994. His application was reviewed in normal course. A routine fingerprint check revealed a prior arrest that was apparently not disclosed in McLaughlin's application. The Committee on Character, established under Rule 1:25 to assess the character qualifications of candidates for admission to the bar, reviewed the candidate's application in an informal conference pursuant to Regulation 303 of the Regulations Governing the Committee on Character (RG 303). Although the Court has determined that the July 1991 version of the Regulations should be applied to McLaughlin's application, references will be made herein to more current Regulations.

On August 25, 1995, the hearing panel of the Committee issued its report recommending that the Court withhold the character certification of McLaughlin. Its recommendation was based on a pattern of lack of candor exhibited by McLaughlin's failures to disclose or truthfully to characterize incidents in his history. The panel also found McLaughlin's demeanor at the hearing and in the course of the proceedings an additional reason to withhold certification. McLaughlin thereafter waived his right to a Review Hearing by a Statewide Panel as provided by the appeal rules governing procedures before the Character Committee. RG 304. The candidate then appealed directly to this Court to review the Committee's decision. RG 304:7.

A.

The Character Committee's review of the candidate's application for admission to the bar was prompted by insufficient disclosure of three prior events in the candidate's history: an arrest in Brighton, MA, an arrest in Hoboken, NJ, and circumstances relating to personal automobile insurance.

1. The Brighton arrest

All candidates for the New Jersey Bar are required to submit fingerprint cards to facilitate investigation of any criminal history.

Page 138

The fingerprint check on McLaughlin turned up a 1985 felony arrest for larceny of a motor vehicle in Massachusetts. As a result of the fingerprint check, McLaughlin's file was flagged for investigation of the apparent non-disclosure of the 1985 arrest.

The Character Committee discovered that this charge had been downgraded to a misdemeanor charge of using a motor vehicle without authority, and that McLaughlin entered into a conditional discharge program without a plea, conditioned on an alcohol abuse evaluation by a psychiatrist, and payment of costs and restitution.

McLaughlin's application form itself revealed no mention of the Brighton incident, despite the fact that the form specifically requested such disclosure and provided space for brief answers. 1 Furthermore, none of the three attachments fastened to McLaughlin's Candidate Statement (a "Job History" consisting of two pages; a one-paragraph [675 A.2d 1104] explanation of a 1994 disorderly persons arrest in Hoboken, N.J.; and a one-paragraph explanation of a suspension of his New York driver's license) referred to the 1985 Massachusetts arrest.

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When the Character Committee contacted McLaughlin regarding the apparent nondisclosure, McLaughlin requested a copy of his application papers because he had not kept one, even though all candidates are instructed to save a copy for their records.

Thereafter, McLaughlin sent the Committee an affidavit, dated November 15, 1994, with a one-page attachment summarizing the 1985 arrest. See infra at 140-41, 675 A.2d at 1104-05. In the affidavit, McLaughlin claimed that he originally submitted the attachment to the Board of Bar Examiners with the Certified Statement. He explained that he completed all of the attachments in the same day at the Rutgers Law Review offices, and even showed the description of the 1985 incident to some persons who were in the offices that day.

At the hearing, McLaughlin contended that the attachment was included with his application, but that the Committee had lost it. Although he admitted that he was not "infallible," and explained that he might have forgotten to include the attachment in his application, McLaughlin asserted that his principal belief was that he had submitted the document with his Certified Statement and that the Committee had lost it. Character Committee Staff Attorney Martha Treese testified at the Hearing that she had personally checked the application papers that were originally submitted by McLaughlin and found no such attachment. She further testified that because the other attachments were securely fastened to the Certified Statement, she had no reason to believe that a member of her staff had lost the document referring to the Brighton arrest.

Though he claimed that he did not keep a copy of the original application papers, McLaughlin testified at the hearing that he did save the attachment regarding the 1985 arrest. McLaughlin also claimed that he did not attach the arrest records for the 1985 arrest because they were under seal and he was unable to obtain them. Immediately after the hearing, however, the candidate was able to obtain copies of the 1985 arrest records and provide them to the panel. McLaughlin explained this incongruity by asserting

Page 140

that he was only able to retrieve those records after the hearing because he could claim that they were needed for a court appearance.

In his affidavit submitted prior to the hearing, McLaughlin claimed that he showed the document recounting the 1985 arrest to "various members of the Computer and Technology Journal, certain members of the Law Review and other law students and friends." When questioned at the hearing regarding those persons, however, McLaughlin admitted that when he contacted them prior to the hearing, they had no recollection of seeing the document relating to his 1985 arrest.

The candidate produced two witnesses at the hearing, both of whom testified that they had seen or heard the substance of the attachment referring to the 1985 arrest. Both witnesses were unable to provide exact dates for their reading or hearing of the attachment, though one witness asserted that the statement was read to her over the phone on the day it was due, because McLaughlin called her later that day to tell her he had mailed his application.

Although McLaughlin claimed the testimony demonstrated that he eventually decided to disclose the 1985 incident by attaching a description to his Certified Statement, at best, the witnesses' testimony indicated only that the candidate may have prepared a statement regarding the arrest at the time he submitted his application.

The Character Committee panel noted the stylistic and formatting differences between the descriptions included in the original application, and the description of the 1985 incident that McLaughlin later sent to the Committee. For example, the panel noted that the account of the 1985 arrest was several paragraphs long and included paragraph indentations; in contrast, the descriptions originally included with McLaughlin's Certified Statement were single-paragraph accounts with no indentations. In addition, although McLaughlin asserted that the other [675 A.2d 1105] details of the writings were the same, such as the margin width and

Page 141

typeface, the panel inferred that the writings were not completed at the same time in light of the "florid language" and flippant tone of the 1985 description, which differed from the spare diction and straightforward tone of the other items. 2

Page 142

2. The Hoboken arrest

Another item indicating a lack of candor on McLaughlin's Candidate Statement concerned a 1994 Hoboken disorderly persons arrest. 3 Notably, the panel found that applicant's explanation of this arrest arising from his involvement in a "peaceful political protest" was disingenuous. Further investigation by the panel revealed that McLaughlin's brief rendition of the incident set forth in his application was incomplete and misleading.

JoAnn Italiano, Staff Investigator for the Committee on Character, described her investigation into the incident as follows:

On March 22, 1995, at approximately 7:00 pm, I telephoned Detective Richard Burgos [the arresting officer in the disorderly conduct offense] from the Hoboken Police Department in reference...

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7 practice notes
  • Practice and procedure: Patent and trademark cases rules of practice; representation of others before Patent and Trademark Office,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...Convictions--Federal Youth Corrections Act, 361 So.2d 424 (Fla. 1978); In re Majorek, 508 N.W.2d 275 (Neb. 1993); In re McLaughlin, 675 A.2d 1101 (N.J. 1995); and In re Davis, 403 N.E.2d 189 (Ohio 1980). Requiring disclosure of arrests, even if a state court has ordered expungement, does no......
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...Convictions--Federal Youth Corrections Act, 361 So.2d 424 (Fla. 1978); In re Majorek, 508 N.W.2d 275 (Neb. 1993); In re McLaughlin, 675 A.2d 1101 (N.J. 1995); and In re Davis, 403 N.E.2d 189 (Ohio 1980). Requiring disclosure of arrests, even if a state court has ordered expungement, does no......
  • C.A., Matter of
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 31, 1996
    ...to Megan's Law is not punishment for a criminal action but rather is a civil remedy to ensure public safety. See, e.g., In re McLaughlin, 144 N.J. 133, 143, 675 A.2d 1101 (1996)(denying application for admission to bar in part on the basis of prior act that was "illegal," even though there ......
  • Saldana v. Kmart Corp., No. CIV.1995–90M.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of the Virgin Islands
    • December 20, 1999
    ...warren E. Burger, Delivery of Justice 175 (1990) ( reprinted in In re Appl'n of McLaughlin for Admission to the Bar of New Jersey, 144 N.J. 133, 675 A.2d 1101, 1112 n. 9 (1996)). 16. The Court adopted these Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement in furtherance of its inherent power and responsib......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • C.A., Matter of
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 31, 1996
    ...to Megan's Law is not punishment for a criminal action but rather is a civil remedy to ensure public safety. See, e.g., In re McLaughlin, 144 N.J. 133, 143, 675 A.2d 1101 (1996)(denying application for admission to bar in part on the basis of prior act that was "illegal," even though there ......
  • Saldana v. Kmart Corp., No. CIV.1995–90M.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of the Virgin Islands
    • December 20, 1999
    ...warren E. Burger, Delivery of Justice 175 (1990) ( reprinted in In re Appl'n of McLaughlin for Admission to the Bar of New Jersey, 144 N.J. 133, 675 A.2d 1101, 1112 n. 9 (1996)). 16. The Court adopted these Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement in furtherance of its inherent power and responsib......
  • Kornreich, Matter of
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • May 23, 1997
    ...In re Jenkins, 94 N.J. 458, 467 A.2d 1084 (1983), and she demonstrated contempt for the administration of justice, see In re McLaughlin, 144 N.J. 133, 675 A.2d 1101 The DRB was also "aware that respondent was a young woman and a new attorney at the time of the accident," but it discounted P......
  • In re Meaden, No. 00-BG-1059.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • July 13, 2006
    ...of proceedings and expungement of official records pursuant to D.C.Code § 48-904.01(e) (2001)). 11. See In re Application of McLaughlin, 144 N.J. 133, 675 A.2d 1101, 1103 & 1103 n. 1 (1996) (noting the requirement that New Jersey Bar applicants file a certified statement with the Committee ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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