Issue: Will the Court provide an advisory opinion on
an individual's moral character and fitness to practice law when the
applicant had no intention to take the Maryland bar examination or to
practice law in the State of Maryland?
Holding: No. In this case, the applicant's
stated purpose for applying for admission was to "clear his record"
with the State of Maryland. As this is not the function of the
Court of Appeals of Maryland, the Court dismissed his application.
Area of Concern: Character and Fitness;
Citation: 336 Md. 555, 649 A.2d 599 (1994)
PANEL: MURPHY, C.J., and ELDRIDGE,
RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, KARWACKI, BELL and RAKER, JJ.
The Petitioner, William Coale Worthington, Jr., filed with the
State Board of Law Examiners his second application for
admission to the Maryland Bar on May 5, 1988 after withdrawing his
Pursuant to Rule 5 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of
Maryland, the Board referred Petitioner's application to the Character
Committee for the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The Committee conducted an
investigation and held a hearing at which the Petitioner and others
testified. Following the hearing, the Committee issued a report
recommending against Petitioner's admission to the Maryland Bar.
Thereafter, the State Board also conducted a hearing at which the
Petitioner testified. The Board eventually issued a Report also
recommending against Petitioner's admission on the ground that
Petitioner had not met his burden of demonstrating that he had the
requisite fitness to practice law.
Pursuant to Rule 5(d), the Petitioner next filed in this Court
written exceptions to the recommendation of the State Board in an
effort to show cause why his application should not be denied.
On November 3, 1994 the Court conducted a hearing for the purpose of
affording Petitioner a further opportunity to present his views in
support of his application for admission to the Bar. At the hearing, as
in proceedings before the State Board, Petitioner made it abundantly
clear that he did not intend now or in the future either to take the
Maryland Bar examination or ever to become a member of the Bar of this
State. His stated purpose for applying for admission was to "clear his
record" with the government of Maryland. Page 557 After the
hearing the Court carefully considered the matter.
The Court has determined that it would be a meaningless exercise
for the Court to rule upon the Petitioner's application as he has
no intention of taking the Maryland Bar examination or becoming a
member of the Bar of this State. The Petitioner is in effect
asking the Court to render an advisory opinion, a long forbidden
practice in this State. Hatt v. Anderson, 297
46, 464 A.2d 1076
(1983); see also Petition for Trade Name,
333 Md. 488,
491, 635 A.2d 1338
NOW, THEREFORE, it is this 10th day of November, 1994, ORDERED, by
the Court of Appeals of Maryland, that the application filed by the
Petitioner, William Coale Worthington, Jr., be, and it is hereby,
When the Maryland Board of Law Examiners, DC Bar Committee on Admissions, or any character committee questions your character and fitness for bar admission, bar applicants should retain an attorney to assist in disclosing information relevant to character and fitness, to guide them through the bar admissions process, and to represent applicants in character committee hearings and in hearings before the Court of Appeals to determine whether they are fit to practice law. Character and fitness concerns may arise in connection with prior criminal convictions, academic dishonesty and honor code violations, addictions, drunk driving, neglected debts, and a failure to disclose material information on law school applications or on bar applications. If you have a history of misconduct, traffic citations, crimes, arrests and other facts to disclose in response to the character portion of the Maryland Bar Application or the DC Bar's NCBE application, you should strongly consider retaining bar admissions counsel if you want to avoid denial of a law license and get a license to practice law. This is even true for applicants for admission to law schools as these applications ask similar questions about character. A failure to disclose facts material to your admission could result in a denial of bar admission.