The July bar exam is coming up next week and is on the minds of many law school graduates. … But after law school, and before the bar exam, there is one other hurdle law school graduates must clear on their path to becoming a licensed attorney – they must pass a Character and Fitness Evaluation (CFE). …
[Otion] Gjini was denied admission to Bar of Maryland. [He is not] a sympathetic applicant. Gjini was mostly denied because he had frequent DUIs and did not disclose that he was facing a charge of violating his probation until the charge was found by the Maryland Character Committee (MCC) and brought up during his hearing.
But also at issue when Gjini appeared before the MCC, were his online postings. During law school, Gjini, like almost every law school student, frequently commented on various social media services. During his examination, the MCC came across Gjini’s public accounts and found the following comments:
- “This guy is a dipshit.”
- “Yo, shut the fuck up so we can watch the video.”
- “The both fight like hoes.”
- “The bully kid was a pussie.”
- “That girl is hot as fuck.”
- “Who is the faggot that made this video?”
- “Just keep games like they are with a PS3 controller. None of this gay shit.”
- “Straight NUTT in that bitch.”
All unsavory comments…but actually fairly mild if you’ve spent anytime on the Internet. Such language is common. In its recommendation, the MCC notes:
…the speech in this case, certainly would tend to “breed disrespect for the courts and for the legal profession” if associated with an attorney, in or out of the courtroom and whether or not it was uttered in a professional setting. …
It is not simply a statement of sanctimony to suggest that members of the legal profession should endeavor to elevate the practice of law above the transient vulgarities of contemporary society. One can only wonder how the history of this country might have fared had members of the legal profession refused to accept as somehow legitimate the culture which legalized slavery or which institutionalized segregation or anti-Semitism, all of which were accepted practices and expressions at one time, and all of which were then, and are now reprehensible. …
Gjini was unlikely to be admitted to the Bar of Maryland due to his DUI offense, probation violations, and lack of candor before the MCC; his online posting were just the cherry on top. But they were considered, “…bearing those considerations in mind, the on-line postings were just one factor to be considered with regard to Mr. Gjini’s application for admission to the Bar.”
At the moment, the Bar of Florida is the only state bar that has adopted a policy of investigating the social networking accounts of applicants…with certain questionable backgrounds on a case-by-case basis. But as is apparent with Gjini, Maryland is examining applicant’s social media accounts (likely on a case-by-case basis as well). …
So could your social media posts prevent you from becoming a lawyer?
Like many lawyer answers, “it depends.” But if you’re an applicant for a state bar and have any problems in your past that might concern a CFE … I’d make sure your social media is history is cleaned up before you submit your application.