I often wonder what is the purpose of a hearing before the Board of Bar Examiners. Is it to ask important questions that determine character and fitness, is it to wonder why someone gets so many speeding tickets, or is it to test the Board Member's ability at cross examination?
"Did you ever tell anyone anything different than what you said today?"
"I don't remember, it was 13 years ago."
"Did you ever say 'I'm not guilty of this?'"
"I don't remember, maybe."
"Well! We have an affidavit from a file that we know you were told didn't exist that says you did."
Another example is the hearing I had Saturday, where after the formalities, the first question to my client was "Here's what I am concerned about, I want to know why you.........?"
Now narrowing the issues at a hearing is not something I expect. Often the questioning goes off in a direction that makes me wonder what it really takes to be admitted to the Bar these days. I'll never forget when one client was asked why he went to so many colleges in the late 60's early 70's: "Because I was in Vietnam serving our country and got hurt. I attended various schools while receiving treatment and then asked to go back to Vietnam." The Board Member quickly moved on after that answer.
But this hearing Saturday, on a major issue, lasted all of 25 minutes. Why, because the board members knew what they wanted to ask, and weren't there to have a mini trial and test their skills at questioning a young, shaking, almost in tears applicant. The applicant helped the situation of course by answering the questions and not taking the hearing in a direction that created more answers than questions.
Like any legal proceeding, the tone and length depends on the presiding officer and the parties, but I can only hope that what I saw Saturday, how a major issue was investigated in a 25 minute hearing, is going to be the norm and not the exception.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.