Character & Fitness

Not what the image of lawyers that the California Supreme Court wants to support.

A former journalist turned law school graduate went to the state of California and asked to be admitted to the practice of law.

California said no.

The problem was his practice of “making up stories” for a few years while working at The New Republic.

A well-documented history of lying is not a great testament to the moral fitness of a prospective lawyer, but does this particular transgression really justify denying Stephen Glass’s application?

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Do you ‘Like’ weird stories? Keep reading.

It’s a bizarre tale. Here’s what happened, according to law enforcement allegations.

On a Facebook page called UW Crushes, where University of Wyoming students could post anonymous, flirtatious notes to one another, the following posting appeared: “I want to hatef**k Meg Lanker Simons so hard. That chick runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its so hot and makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican b**ch.”

The post attracted national attention — and outrage. A rally against “rape culture” took place at UW. University officials condemned the incident and launched an investigation.

Then things got… weird. After conducting an investigation, police came to the conclusion that the “hatef**k” posting was written by none other than Lanker-Simons herself. Lanker-Simons got charged with a misdemeanor count of interfering with a peace officer, arising out of her alleged obstruction of the investigation. According to the Laramie Boomerang, Lanker-Simons will plead “no contest” very soon.

And now the story has a connection to the legal profession: the alleged hoax artist is going to law school. Because of course she’s going to law school. Legal education is, after all, a popular option among murderers, bank robbers, perpetrators of hate crimes, and other colorful characters.

So where is she enrolled? Might she be your classmate?

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Elizabeth Wurtzel

Last week, Elizabeth Wurtzel left Boies Schiller & Flexner. The bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Prozac Nation and other books, and a contributor to such publications as the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, Wurtzel started working at the formidable firm in 2008. She was personally hired by legendary litigator David Boies, after she graduated from Yale Law School.

We heard some interesting rumors about what led to La Wurtzel’s departure from BSF. On Friday afternoon, one tipster breathlessly told us the following: “Wurtzel was fired from Boies Schiller after she demanded a window office (she had been working in an internal office similar to what staff use). The partners looked at her hours — which are so minimal that it’s amazing she is still employed at all — and gave her the boot. She is also still not licensed. She passed the bar — but what about character and fitness?”

(The potential character and fitness issues arise out of Wurtzel’s wild pre-law life. As the New York Times put it, Wurtzel is someone “whose attempted suicide, drug use, self-mutilation and indiscriminate sex have made her famous” — thanks to her turning these experiences into the books Prozac Nation and More, Now, Again. To learn more, read her nomination blurb in our contest for Yale Law’s most disgraceful graduate.)

The notion of Wurtzel getting fired over a dispute about office space struck me as a little… well, like Office Space. Did she demand a red Swingline stapler too?

I reached out to Liz Wurtzel and Boies Schiller to find out what actually went down. Here’s what I learned….

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Johnathan Perkins

When it comes to the protagonists of 2011’s biggest legal stories, our readers want to know: Where are they now? Last week, for example, we brought you an update on Casey Anthony, which generated keen interest (and traffic).

The recent alleged misadventures of certain UVA Law School students — students accused of breaking and entering, students accused of bothering bikers (to be fair, some bikers are obnoxious and deserve what they get) — have caused commentators to wonder: Whatever happened to Johnathan Perkins?

Johnathan Perkins was the then-3L at UVA Law who confessed to fabricating a tale of racial harassment by university police. As a result of his dishonesty, did he have to go before UVA’s famously strict Honor Committee? Did he end up getting his law degree? There was some ambiguity over whether he would graduate.

We have an update, based on a statement from the dean of the law school….

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Rick Perry: 'It's this big.'

* Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Attorney General, wants Rick Perry’s election law suit to be dismissed, because really, what’s the point? Standing or not, Perry got completely hosed in Iowa. [Bloomberg]

* What’s next for Stephen Glass? When all else fails, hire a high-profile appellate team to do your dirty work for you. He could write a book about this and he wouldn’t even have to lie. [Am Law Daily]

* 1Ls who hope for good grades have better chances of getting them. Everyone else is screwed unless they buy that Secret book housewives raved about on Oprah. [National Law Journal]

* An Illinois police officer tracked a woman down after giving her a speeding ticket, wrote her a love note, and now she’s suing him. Harsh. Why not throw him a rejection hotline number? [Daily Mail]

* You thought Touro was the worst law school in New York by a landslide, but our second-place finisher is earning its medal. CUNY Law’s bar passage rates plummeted in 2011. [New York Post]

* Johnny Weir, the most fabulous figure skater in all the land, has married a Georgetown Law grad. His Twitter profile says he’s taking the New Jersey bar exam soon. Good luck! [Washington Post]

* Robert L. Carter, S.D.N.Y. Senior Judge and desegregation strategist, RIP. [New York Times]

Paul Clement

* If defending unpopular clients is cool, consider Paul Clement Miles Davis. He’s the lead lawyer in three politically charged cases going up before SCOTUS in the new year. [LA Times]

* Joe Arpaio’s going to have a tough time racially profiling Hispanics in 2012. What’s a man to do without verification powers and the ability to detain people on suspicion alone? [WaPo]

* A summary of the NLJ’s 2011 year in review round-up: all of this was a preview of what’s to come in 2012. And what’s to come? Same sh*t, different docket number. [National Law Journal]

* C&F fail: the California Supreme Court is busy worrying about Stephen Glass, a guy who took his “creative writing” efforts a bit too far. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* The Hollywood actress suing IMDb for revealing her age has to reveal much more thanks to this ruling. She’s got two weeks to amend her complaint to include her name. [The Wrap]

* “Oh my God, the law school has gone crazy.” Don’t blame the messenger, but UVA Law’s headlines on ATL are totally self-inflicted. Here’s Elie’s take on the collar-poppin’ action. [C-VILLE]

* Larry Ribstein, partnership law guru, business law blogger, and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Illinois College Law, RIP. [Truth on the Market]

* Robert Morvillo, New York trial lawyer and white-collar defense pioneer, RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]

* John Lawrence, plaintiff in the landmark LGBT rights case of Lawrence v. Texas, RIP. [NY Times]

* Rod Blagojevich is sentenced to 14 years but his hair will be out in seven if it behaves. [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* Jerry Sandusky was re-arrested. This dude needs to be put in the Hannibal Lecter cell. Can’t you hear this guy saying, “A pizza boy tried to deliver to my house once. I S’ed his D after luring him with jellybeans and a Good & Plenty.” [Deadspin]

* Has the Leveson Inquiry into News of the World been “hijacked” by celebrities? Aren’t they the only ones that matter? [Lady of Law]

* The RIAA is about as neutral as a spider regarding something it’s caught in its web. [Simple Justice]

* Should being a world-renowned liar get you barred from practicing on character and fitness grounds? [Reuters]

* When going to the dentist feels like going to the spa, you might be spending too much time in the law school library. [Life in the Law School Lane]

* Obama’s pivots on tax cuts show why he’s the Republican frontrunner for the 2012 nomination. [Going Concern]

The other pics for bipolar disorder were more freaky.

Back when only recent college graduates went to law school, you didn’t have to worry much about law students sneaking into law schools with extensive criminal records. How much trouble can you really get into when you were busy performing well in college, earning a useless liberal arts degree?

But in our day and age, there are enough law schools hanging around that pretty much anybody can get in. Barriers to entry are pretty much at the level where as long as you can fill out a loan application, you can get into law school. Heck, as we reported recently, convicted murderers can get into law school.

But you have to tell the truth. You can get into law school with a criminal record, but you have to tell your law school the truth about your record.

Apparently, telling the truth is a problem that some people are having….

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Paul Bergrin

* Paul Bergrin wants to represent himself in his racketeering case. They say that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client, but that’s not the case when you’re considered the Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Hordes of Biglaw lawyers couldn’t stop the DOJ from trying to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. New antitrust issues abound, like “higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products.” They already have a monopoly on crappy coverage. [Am Law Daily]

* The truth? You can’t handle the truth! That, or you don’t really care about it when it comes to Barry Bonds. The big-headed baseball MVP will not face a retrial on his perjury charges. [CNN]

* Sasan Ansari, a convicted killer in Canada, will return to the University of British Columbia to complete law school. Good luck with your character and fitness evaluation, eh? [Vancouver Sun]

Jessica Beagley

* Jessica Beagley managed to avoid jail time at sentencing. Come on, judge, you could’ve at least given her a taste of her own medicine: hot sauce and a cold shower. [WSJ Law Blog]

* BitTorrent porn? On my grandma’s computer? It’s more likely than you think. After this California granny scolded Steele Hansmeier, the lawsuit against her was dropped. She mailed the firm a Werther’s Original in thanks. [Huffington Post]

* Nudity first, names later. I like this sheriff deputy’s alleged style. A girl in Utah is suing over a roadside traffic rendezvous that she says turned into an illegal strip search. [Standard-Examiner]

Well, how much debt do you have?

Wow. Guy goes to law school, guy racks up a huge amount of debt, guy has no idea how he’ll pay off his debts. Sound familiar? Okay, here’s the twist: the guy failed the “character and fitness” component of the Ohio bar because he has no plan to pay off his loans.

What the hell kind of legal education system are we running where we charge people more than they can afford to get a legal education, and then prevent them from being lawyers because they can’t pay off their debts?

Because it’s not like Hassan Jonathan Griffin was in a particularly unique situation when he went before the Ohio bar. A year and a half ago, we wrote about a man who was dinged on his character and fitness review because he was $400,000 in debt. That’s an extraordinary case. Hassan Jonathan Griffin owes around $170,000. He has a part-time job as a public defender. He used to be a stockbroker. He’s got as much a chance of figuring out a way to pay off his loans as most people from the Lost Generation.

If Griffin can’t pass C&F, Ohio might as well say that half of the recent graduates in the state don’t have the “character and fitness” to be a lawyer…

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