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Can debt or bankruptcy affect moral character determinations?

Before the State Bar of California allows you to practice law, it assesses your character to determine whether it considers you to be someone of “good moral character.” There are many different actions or convictions that may call your character into question. If you have a considerable amount of debt, or if you have filed for bankruptcy in the past, you may wonder whether these actions might affect your moral character determination.

According to the State Bar of California, having outstanding debts, alone, is not enough to result in a poor moral character determination. Neither is having a past bankruptcy filing.

Finances and moral character determinations

While having debt or a past bankruptcy does not automatically disqualify you from being able to practice law in California, there are some circumstances under which financial irresponsibility may come back to bite you. If the state bar decides you were irresponsible in how you handled your debts, this may call your moral character into question. The same holds true if the bar determines that you used your bankruptcy filing to somehow defraud your creditors.

Fiduciary duties and moral character determinations

Financial issues may lead to poor moral character determinations if the bar asserts that you served in a fiduciary role and breached your duties in some way. Unless you show proof of your efforts to reform or rehabilitate yourself, criminal acts involving breaches of fiduciary duties may lead to poor moral character determinations.  Maintaining a lengthy period of exemplary conduct may also help show that you are taking steps to rehabilitate yourself.

When dealing with the State Bar of California, strive to be honest and forthcoming. The bar views candid admissions as an important step in the rehabilitative process.

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