Since the Supreme Court has responsibility for the Committee on Character, and given my own service on and subsequent practice before that Committee, this blog has discussed issues related to the Committee on Character in various posts. Those include this, this, and this, among others.
The basic document used by the Committee on Character to evaluate Bar applicants is the Character and Fitness Questionnaire (“CFQ”). The Supreme Court revises the CFQ periodically, as circumstances require. For example, in September 2023, as discussed here, the Court revised the CFQ question that inquired about candidates’ mental health.
In a Notice to the Bar that was published here, the Court has now ordered another revision to the CFQ. It relates to a question that asks whether a candidate has been a party to a civil, administrative, or other enumerated proceeding, including petitions for protection from abuse, restraining orders, and Title IX proceedings. The Notice states that “With regard to petitions for protection from abuse, restraining orders, and Title IX proceedings, the question is designed to ascertain whether a candidate has been accused of serious conduct that might bear on the candidate’s character and fitness to practice law, or has abused court processes through the repetitive, frivolous, or vexatious filing of civil actions more broadly. The question is not intended to probe into the sensitive details of proceedings that involve victims of abuse or assault.”
The Notice goes on to state that “A new addendum to the question more clearly states that candidates who disclose that they filed petitions for protection from abuse, restraining orders, or Title IX actions are not asked to provide a description or documentation, which is required in connection with other types of actions. Rather, candidates disclosing petitions for protection from abuse, restraining orders, and Title IX proceedings need only provide the case caption and the outcome.” This change takes effect immediately, and a revised CFQ will be posted to the Board of Bar Examiners website “expeditiously so that those currently seeking admission will have the benefit of this change.”
This is a salutary development. The Committee on Character process is designed to expose the details of legal proceedings that reflect adversely on the current character and fitness of candidates to practice law. The details of the types of matters covered by this change to the CFQ do nothing to advance that goal. The Court has wisely recognized that and revised the CFQ.