Here's another new strip, as promised. Unfortunately my problems with the Application for the Determination of Moral Character have nothing to do with any specific scandalous happenstances (my 25th birthday notwithstanding), it's just a giant pain in the ass.
My beefs with the moral character application are many. To begin with, it's 27 pages long and asks for a lot of information that's either completely unnecessary or ferociously inappropriate. After listing every address I've lived at for the past eight years and every job I've held since I turned 18 (I'm still working on tracking down my supervisor from the failed dotcom I worked at in college), I began marking "No" to a long series of questions about my sordid past. Some of the questions are arguably important, asking about any criminal convictions, losses of professional licenses, or fraud actions. Others are on the fringe - You need to indicate whether you've ever discharged a debt or defaulted on a loan. And then there's the question that asks if you've ever been diagnosed with a medically recognized mental illness. While I agree that being crazy may (just may) impair your ability to law talk, couching the inquiry under the heading of MORAL CHARACTER adds a stigma to mental health that just doesn't need to be there.
Also obnoxious is the personal references section. You need no less than five "reputable and responisble persons who know you well." Setting aside the fact that I don't know that many reputable and responsible persons in the first place, there are further restrictions. They can't be people you've worked for/with, only one can be a professor, they can't be related by blood or marriage (which means that Molly could be my reference if we were just shacking up, but not now since we've committed the immoral act of matrimony), and at least one must be a member of a U.S. or foreign bar. At this point since I've got my references lined up I'm objecting on purely philosophical grounds, but it still pisses me off.
Many thanks to the people who agreed to be my vouchers, by the way. Now let's just remember not to mention our trip to Encinada and my evening with "Maria."
Moving beyond the four corners of the application for a moment, I'll point out that the MCA is one of THREE morality filters the Bar places between law students and the legal profession. Assuming, arguendo, that the Bar has any business imposing ethical or moral requirements on attorneys in the first place (a proposition that the libertarian in me finds questionable at best), is the MCA really necessary given the fact that every ABA-accredited law school (except Stanford) has a required course in legal ethics? Not to mention the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, a licensure requirement that, rumor has it, has shifted from perfunctory to difficult this year. Any one of these three things, it seems to me, would more than adequately instill the requisite ethical values upon future lawyers.
But my biggest problem with the MCA is the fact that, at 27 pages, $363, and numerous unnecessary and intrusive questions, it's a shining metaphor for the Bar itself. When it comes to ethical standards, the Bar is all hat and no cattle. They make a huge deal about the sanctity of the legal profession and ethics and morals and responsibility and blah blah blah, but once you're in, well, you're pretty much in. The rules are almost never enforced. If there's one thing I learned in Norman Spaulding's Legal Profession course it's that attorneys can get away with anything and avoid professional sanctions (though not necessarily malpractice). Even if by some satanic miracle you find yourself "disbarred," chances are you can get back in after a few years. So I'd much rather take this $363 I'm about to send to the California Bar and spend it at the kind of California bar that will render me chemically unable to practice law for a brief period of time. Either way the money is going down the drain, but I'd at least like to enjoy the ride.
And that's my story.