American Legal History
-- AndrewMcCormick - 13 Nov 2009

This genesis of my curiosity about character and fitness standards was an online article discussing whether excessive student debt could be a disqualifying character and fitness criteria. As colossal student debt loads are a recent phenomenon, character and fitness must be an evolving standard; further, as it is a mutable concept, judges and bar associations have room for significant interpretation. I suspect a(n) historical investigation of character and fitness examination would contribute to understanding the legal profession in America.

Realistically, I did not expect to find ‘smoking gun’ evidence of social policymaking through character and fitness examination; the mere fact that historical bar exams were orally administered would likely prevent it. However, I propose that an interesting question exists of whether bar exam character and fitness standards tended to be more or less progressive than widely held norms of the time regarding race, religion, and potentially homosexuality. I find this question interesting because I can readily imagine reasonable arguments supporting both positions, and scholarship in the field is thin.

Moral Character as a Professional Credential Deborah L. Rhode The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 94, No. 3 (Jan., 1985), pp. 491-603 available here: MoralCharacterCredential

The Troubling Rise of the Legal Profession's Good Moral Character. St. John's Law Review, 2008 by Keith Swisher available here: TroublingRise

Confronting Racists at the Bar: Matthew Hale, Moral Character, and Regulating the Marketplace. Jason O. Billy available here: RacistsattheBar

American Legal History. Hall, Wiecek, Finkelman. Oxford Univ. Press, 1006.

Legal Ethics, Fifth Ed. Rhode, Luban. Foundation Press, 2009.



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r3 - 04 Jan 2010 - 18:49:26 - AndrewMcCormick
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