Monday, January 17, 2011

Inside The Florida Board Of Bar Examiners Hearings: Are We There Yet?

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."

"Oh, sorry."

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.Share/Save/Bookmark


Kevin said...

I can attest to the illegitimatcy of these hearings, having been called into one for having friends and family write letters to the Senate Judiciary committee urging that judges who didn't not respect the civil rights of persons with disabilities not be confirmed for higher office. I sat through nearly three hours of trivial non-substantive questions that had absolutely nothing to do with the issues and instead asked if I had an ethics class twenty years ago in my graduate management classes, why family members wrote their letters on their employer's letterhead, etc. Five minutes after the hearing the panel left to go home, showing it was a simple rubber stamp and a pre-determined outcome. My admission was supposed to be delayed only one year yet the board has refused to response to my re application for another full year after the withhold expired, and then claimed that I owe
$900 for transcripts that even board counsel admits are unecessary and don't satsify the board's own rule that the transcripts must "be reasonably required." In essence, the Board is simpmly validating the popular criticism that they use the character and fitness process to arbitrarily and capriciously harass and delay, instead of for its statutory purpose of protecting the public from harm and safety.

Sam said... can I get them to make their decision ASAP? I had the same problem as app was withdrawn for a year...the expiration period has come (as of last week)...I passed the bar a week did you get hem to consider your app? I cannot wait a year since I have job offers on the line -- please help!

Sam said...

Kevin--my application was also withdrawn for a year and the year is up (as of a week ago) did oyu get them to finally make their decision? Please help!! I have job offers on the line and cannot afford to wait one year for them to decide

Anonymous said...

Part 1,
Sam and Kevin, you might want to check your voting record and see if you are republican. 98% of the FBBE are registered Democrats. The major profession of virtually all, is some form of Gov. lawyer job, not private sector. Further, there is a huge bias against males in FL especially those with business backgrounds. And there is also a massive bias against the lower tier law schools as if the Board is taking it upon themselves to damage students who take somewhat nontraditional avenues.

If you are older then FBBE is set up to block out of state lawyers by requiring 40 or more years of background information while making decisions on younger cocaine snorting applicants with just five years of background data, mostly living at home and having accomplished exactly zero with their lives.

The Exec. Director isn't even a lawyer. She was educated at some low tier school in backwater Georgia with a degree in psychology. She is the orchestrator of your fate. Apparently her marriage didn't go well and she's mad at the world of males and seeks to deliver her pound of flex through bureaucratic stalling. Your career means nothing to her; in fact, it is the goal of the FBBE to just make it more difficult for Males with powerful second careers from entering the practice of law. It is shocking how many actual practicing attorneys are put through the cost drag by this abuse of power.

Think about it. How is it possible that a practicing attorney from another state that passes the bar and applies to FL get rejected on Character and Fitness when they are already practicing law successfully in other states. This is pure restraint of trade and they get away with it. Why?

The Florida Supreme Court, as asleep at the wheel as it was in Bush v. Gore in which they obstinately answered a Unanimous request for the legal basis of their partial re-count and had the audacity, in spite of Justice Well's warning not to confront the US Supreme Court, did it anyway, forcing the Court to rip the case out of the Florida Court with disgrace. Talk about legal ethics... nothing is more imprudent that arbitrary law. But that is what you get in FL.

And ask yourself, If the FBBE is actually doing there job, why is Florida a leading state for Lawyer Misconduct? The Real Estate mortgage fiasco is rife with the signatures of incompetent unethical Florida lawyers that were rubber stamped through the system.

Florida supports some very odd notions about "normative" applicants. In essence the argument written about by a guy named Pobjecky, suggests that ANY applicant that is out of the narrow normative values of other applicants is much more likely to be dishonest. Think about your backgrounds. What is the normative law applicant in FL?

1) 25 years of age
2) Mostly lived at home
3) never served in war
4) never had a serious job or profession
5) never paid much in the way tax
6) never founded or ran a business
7) 60% of applicants are female so now males are suspect
8) did not attend night school

So if you find yourself outside of the normative values, then be prepared to pony up more money for investigative hearings and delayed decisions. It is their method of attrition. They are vile vermin who serve nothing but their own tired bureaucratic liberal interests.

And of course this is a Frey state so the bogus "normative" theory would never pass muster in a real court outside of the Arbitrary FL Courts, the same Courts that attempted to award trial attorney's billions over cigarette litigation which was without scientific foundation.

I am not going to give you advice on how to deal with the FBBE. I deal with scum in my own way. The fact is that this bunch of clowns will always fall back on a very weak ruling that suggests that during the investigative process, they do not owe any due process. Of course this would never fly in the Federal Courts but in the Bush v. Gore arbitrary FL redneck liberal courts is holds up.

Anonymous said...

Part 2
So you could kiss ^ss if you are a weakling. That's what they want. They want to see you crawl and beg to the liberal inquisition and basically show you have no spine at all, just like a good liberal; that you are obedient to arbitrary rule. And then they will think you will make a fine lawyer in FL.

And because FL is virtually bankrupt with 3 public sector employees for every 1 private sector job, the liberal bureaucrats will need to be fed because they can't feed themselves. That is why they huddle in the Gov sector. So you should willingly pay all the additional fees and smile while they are sticking that PVC pipe up your ah... wallet. Like my advice so far? Its the winning strategy to lose your self-respect for these bottomed out losers.

I am sure the blog author will kill my post but let me ask you one more question and search your soul and your heart for this answer...

There is probably nothing "wrong" with you at all. But do you really want to bar in a state like this where the FBBE acts like this? It is the most unprofessional ragtag arbitrary collection of partisan liberals in FL. No other bar acts with this kind of unprofessional conduct and flaunts is as much under the arbitrary rules pushed out by the BUSH v. Gore liberal Court.

Further, FL is an absolute glut of attorneys. The annual numbers of law students taking the bar continues to expand and there are no jobs for any of them. Some grads are taking jobs for 35K a year. They may as well be flipping burgers and the prejudice against students from the lower tier schools virtually guarantees you will never have a decent law practice and will likely never be a partner in a top firm.

I am sorry but this is like the Black Kid that dreams of the NBA and your odds of a great practice are even longer.

They are dragging you through the mill as a form of public humiliation in which your fists are tied from bashing their yellow teeth down their throats. If you are an alpha male you are going to suffer; if you are a beta you will roll over and beg for the PVC pipe.

But the end result will be the same except with the PVC pipe you will feel just a tad worse than having had the vestige of honor as Ayn Rand said to find your circumstances reprehensible.

I will tell you with firm conviction that the evil against you will not prosper in the long run. Those people are losers. The ability of a man with virtue to face a door slammed in their face with total nonchalance can never be beaten because you will have learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of arbitrary asleep at the wheel law. Because there is no law other than the law of survival, the law of the jungle.

I will check back in a week to see if my post is here and anyone has cared to respond.

I saw a bird killed today. It flew into the path of a moving car. Just like the D.H.Lawrence Poem, he flipped up into the air off the ground several times, clinging to his life, but asking no pity when he fell for the last time stone cold dead.


Anonymous said...

I was a non-traditional law school student who decided to give up a high paying job to become a lawyer. I had a 401(k), health insurance and a girlfriend who I planned to marry. Everyone said I was crazy to give up a great job (especially in a recession), take on tens of thousands of dollars of loans to go to school for three years without any guarantee that I would find employment after graduation. I knew the risks, however, I wanted to help people and I felt that a law degree would allow me to accomplish that end.
When I applied to law schools I omitted some criminal infractions (drinking related misdemeanors) that had occurred long in the past. I was afraid those charges would have a negative impact on my being admitted to law school, however, as I later discovered, it did not. After I enrolled, I met with the dean, confessed my omissions and amended my law school app. I fully disclosed every charge on my FL bar application. In my third year of law school I was brought before the Board in an investigative hearing and was completely honest with them about my omissions and infractions. After graduation I took the FL bar and passed, but couldn’t practice because my character and fitness had not been approved. While waiting for a formal hearing with the Board, I interviewed with several firms and obtained a handful of offers with nice salaries and benefits. But, after disclosing my character and fitness issues with the Board, every firm rescinded their offer.
I went before the Board for a formal hearing almost a year after graduating. At the time, I was working at a law firm part-time as a clerk in hopes of a full-time position as a lawyer after approval by the Board. During the hearing, I presented character letters from friends and co-workers, showed that I performed hundreds of hours of community service, and presented other evidence of rehabilitation. I was denied admission for two years because my rehabilitation efforts were not enough. After the hearing, the firm I was working for let me go. I had to move in with my parents because I only could find part-time work which did not cover my expenses and debt payments. I searched everywhere for jobs in both legal and non-legal sectors. Noone was hiring because the economy was so bad. I lost all my savings, the girl who I planned to marry left me, and I’m considering filing for bankruptcy because I can’t meet the minimum payment on my credit cards.
I spent thousands of dollars in hearing fees and legal expenses in trying to resolve this matter, my life is in the gutter and I went from a contributing member of society to a sponge. And why? Over some omissions on law school applications that occurred over 6 years ago? The public can sleep well knowing I will not be out there lying on any more law school applications. Congrats Florida Board of Bar Examiners, you have served the State of Florida with honor.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are well spoken and
entirely accurate. It is about time that someone took the time and made the effort to expose this truly corrupt and ineffective bureau called the Florida Bar. It is run like a mafia organization and by a bunch of loser psycopaths who cannot succeed in the real world; thus, they hide behind the doors and questionable reputation of a once honored and exceptional
insitution which has devolved into
the seedy organization it is now,
admired by none and vilified by most I have come into contact with.
My advice, keep working against them in anyway you can to expose them for who they really are. Maybe the legal community in Florida will someday succeed in freeing the profession from the dictorial bonds of this truly embarrassing cabal.

alpha said...

Have you ever heard of an application being held up because, essentially, there are other people ahead of your application and you just need to wait your turn? Is the bar just screwing with me now? They refuse to give me a time estimate.

Anonymous said...

@ Alpha: If you have anything to worry about, get out while you can and go somewhere else. You are walking into a trap. If they can deny you, they will deny you. Pay heed.

Texas Pete said...

A year after I passed the FL Bar they still had not completed my C&F. I too was an older, non-traditional student. Finally the FBBE wanted to bring me in for an informal hearing. I withdrew and went to Texas. Passed the Texas Bar and absolutely zero issues with C&F. As a famous General once said, you can go to hell, I'm going to Texas.