Overview of the Character and Fitness Investigation Process
*Please note that even if your law school admits you or retains you after disclosure of a character and fitness issue, this does NOT guarantee that you will pass Character and Fitness with the Utah State Bar. Please carefully review Rule 14-708 Character and fitness.
The Character and Fitness Committee of the Utah State Bar will conduct a background investigation on every Applicant for admission to the Bar. Under Rule 14-708 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Utah State Bar all Examination Applicants must be certified to the Utah Supreme Court as morally and ethically fit prior to sitting for the Bar Examination. Applicants who do not have to sit for the Utah Bar Examination must be certified as morally and ethically fit prior to their inclusion on any motion to be admitted before the Utah Supreme Court.
The burden of proof is on the Applicant to establish by clear and convincing evidence that she or he has the requisite character and fitness to practice law. Therefore, it is important to substantiate any claims or explanations with appropriate documentation.
To avoid delays in the completion of the investigation, be certain to provide all information requested in the application, including:
- Complete and accurate mailing addresses for employers and references.
- Complete and detailed accounts of all circumstances where explanations are required, including dates, location, and final outcome.
Persons who file late applications will be given the lowest priority for completion of the background investigation and character and fitness approval. Applicants whose background investigations are not completed by the date of the examination will have their applications deferred to the next Bar Examination.
The Utah State Bar is not at liberty to engage in discussions relative to the status of an investigation. Applicants will be contacted, however, if explanations are inadequate, additional details are needed, or the Character and Fitness Committee requests your appearance before an Inquiry Panel to discuss matters relative to your character and fitness for admission.
The character and fitness investigation will include, but is not limited to, the following areas:
- Court Records. The Bar will search court records of various states to verify that all criminal, civil, and traffic cases have been reported.
- Criminal History.The Bar’s investigator will perform a background check which includes a search in the Utah State Court’s online repository Xchange and other court repositories.
- Financial History including Civil cases. This includes child support and spousal support. As part of the background investigation, the Utah State Bar will obtain a credit report for every Applicant. If you have never resided or established credit in the United States, you may be asked to submit a credit history from your country of residence.
- Applicants are expected to be current on ALL their financial obligations.
- Applicants with accounts past due or with unpaid judgments, taxes, liens, child support, or spousal support will NOT be approved.
- In certain situations, an applicant may be considered current on past due accounts if she or he can demonstrate that payment arrangements have been made and kept with creditor(s) for a minimum of six months.
- Professional History. This includes but is not limited to employment discipline, termination of employment, bar resignation, bar complaints, disbarment or bar suspension, or discipline by a licensing organization.
- Education. Your law school will be contacted to obtain relevant information and you may be asked to provide a copy of your law school application.
- References. The Bar’s investigator may contact individuals likely to have pertinent information. This contact may be through regular mail, email, or by phone. Some of these references may be anonymous which means that you did not list them as references, but they have been identified as current or former neighbors, co-workers, employees, clients, etc.
- Bar Admission in other Jurisdictions. The Bar may contact other jurisdictions to which you have applied and/or been admitted to verify information and perhaps obtain a copy of your application.
Per Rule 14-708(h), an applicant whose application is denied must wait at least one year before she or he may reapply unless another date is specified in the denial letter. Once the Applicant is permitted to apply again, a standard Application must be filed in accordance with the normal deadlines and late fees.