WSBA Character and Fitness Board

Character and Fitness Board

 

The Character and Fitness Board (APR 20) deals with matters of character and fitness bearing upon qualifications of applicants for admission to practice law in the state of Washington or the rehabilitation of petitioners for reinstatement after disbarment.

 

Position overview

The Character and Fitness Board conducts hearings to determine whether applicants for admission to the practice of law can meet their burden to demonstrate that they have the good moral character and fitness required to engage in the practice of law. After reading the hearing materials and considering the testimony, the Board deliberates and prepares written findings, conclusions of law, and a recommendation on admission, which are submitted to the Washington Supreme Court for final decision and action.

 

Licensed legal professionals are required to maintain the highest standards of professional conduct, which are necessary to protect their clients from potential harm that could otherwise be caused by their actions. The Character and Fitness Board plays a significant public protection role, assisting the Washington Supreme Court in reaching a determination on whether an applicant has met their burden to establish the ability to maintain those standards. In doing this, the Board conducts an individualized hearing for each applicant with live testimony and other evidence of significant prior or current misconduct and/or inspiring stories of rehabilitation.

 

Board members must:

· Read hearing materials in advance of hearings, and be prepared to ask questions based on those materials;

· Listen to testimony during hearings, ask questions of applicants and witnesses, weigh evidence, deliberate with other Board members, and arrive at a Board decision regarding a recommendation;

· As assigned, and with the help of other Board members and WSBA staff, prepare written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation regarding admission, within the required timeline;

· Maintain strict confidentiality of materials and subject matter.

Appointment is for a 3-year term. Members may generally not serve another term until 3 years have passed.

 

Time commitment: The Board generally convenes one day a month, and most hearings last all day.   Board members receive the hearing materials a week in advance of the meeting day, and must review them before the meeting. Depending on the extent of the materials, review may take from a couple of hours to one day to read.

Requirements:  Active members of WSBA licensed to practice for at least 5 years and members of the public are eligible to apply.

 

Preferred qualifications and skills: Preferred skills include the ability to treat all applicants with dignity and respect, maintain an open mind until all evidence has been presented, weigh conflicting evidence and arrive at a decision, articulate personal opinions in a polite and professional manner, work collaboratively with a diverse group to arrive at a group decision, write clearly and persuasively, and maintain strict confidentiality regarding materials and hearings. Experience working in a judicial position of any type may be helpful, but is not required.

 

By Washington Supreme Court rules, hearings are confidential and not open to the public, except hearings regarding the character and fitness of petitioners for reinstatement after disbarment.

 

Chair: Knowrasa T. Patrick

Staff Liaison: Renata Garcia

Board of Governors Liaison: Bryn Peterson