About the Author
Admitted?: Yes. But this decision prompted a
dissenting opinion from one judge who believe it "would be derelict in
responsibility to the people of Maryland were I to join in certifying
that this young woman has the requisite moral character to handle the
affairs of others."
Citation: 294 Md. 538, 451 A.2d 655 (1982)
Upon consideration of the favorable recommendation of the State Board of Law Examiners for admission to the Bar of Maryland of MARIA C., it is this 26th day of October, 1982
ORDERED, by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, a majority of the Court concurring, that the favorable recommendation of the State Board be, and it is hereby, adopted; and it is further
ORDERED that the said applicant be admitted to the Bar of Maryland upon taking the oath prescribed by the statute, subject only to the filing of an updating oath as to character information.
Judge Smith dissents.
There was a suggestion at oral argument in this Court and also before the character committee that this young woman should be commended for her frankness because her conviction was under the name of Smith and not under the surname to which she was born and which she apparently proposes using professionally. Accordingly, it was argued that this conviction would never have been discovered had she not disclosed it to the Board of Law Examiners. What this argument completely overlooks is the fact that the report to the character committee from the Baltimore City Police Department reflects the arrest for this shoplifting incident under her proper name, but states there is no record of the disposition. The reason for a lack of a record of the disposition undoubtedly is because it came under the name of Smith. However, with that report it is highly improbable that an alert character committee, such as the one in the Eighth Judicial Circuit which considered her application, would have failed to interrogate the applicant on the subject. Moreover, since she disclosed in her application for admission to the bar that she had also been known by the name Smith, Page 540 I strongly suspect that once that Baltimore City Police Department report was received any investigator worth his salt would have uncovered the conviction promptly. Accordingly, that argument carries absolutely no weight with me. I understand the travail which this young lady says she has been through. I think she is to be commended for her apparent desire to turn her life around. However, this should not be a basis for determining whether she has the moral character requisite for admission to the bar. Thomas Paine, the political pamphleteer of the American Revolution, observed in The American Crisis XIII (1783), "Character is much easier kept than recovered." I agree. One much wiser than I said, "[B]y their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:20 (King James). We can only judge this woman's character by her actions, which include shoplifting and continued deception.
Our requirement that a candidate show himself to be possessed of good moral character is for the purpose of protecting the public. In the same manner, we have said the imposition of a sanction on an erring attorney is not for purposes of punishment of the individual lawyer but for the protection of the public. See, e.g., Attorney Griev. Comm'n v. Pattison,
Under the circumstances I feel that I would be derelict in my responsibility to the people of Maryland were I to join in certifying that this young woman has the requisite moral character to handle the affairs of others. Nevertheless, I wish her well in the practice of law - and hope she will prove my fears unfounded.
- Decided on .