On Appeal

The AP&S Appellate Law Blog

2014 Year in Review – Attorneys

A. Character and Fitness

In re Application of Carlton Vose, 93 A.3d 33 (R.I. 2014): In Vose, the Supreme Court addressed a petition in opposition to the recommendation of the Supreme Court’s Committee on Character and Fitness (the “Committee”) that the petitioner be denied admission to the Rhode Island bar. After numerous meetings with the Committee – during some of which petitioner was represented by counsel – the Committee submitted a Recommendation of Denial of Admission to the Rhode Island Bar supported by ten specific findings of fact. Among those many findings was reference the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ denial of the petitioner’s application for admission to that state’s bar. In his petition in opposition to that recommendation, the petitioner claimed that the Committee failed to meet its burden of inquiring into the findings concerning his previous denial of admission to the Florida bar.

Image courtesy of suphakit73 at Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73 at Freedigitalphotos.net

The Supreme Court disagreed, noting that the petitioner “appears to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the application process laid out in Rule 3 [of the Supreme Court Rules of Admission of Attorneys and Others to Practice Law],” which makes clear that “the onus was on [the petitioner], not the committee, to present clear and convincing evidence of his good moral character.”

Additionally, in passing on an issue of first impression, the Supreme Court concluded that it was proper for the Committee to consider the findings of the Florida board in determining whether the petitioner possessed the requisite character and fitness to be admitted to the Rhode Island bar. The Supreme Court’s conclusion is consistent with that of other jurisdictions that recognize “the propriety of considering an applicant’s denial from the bar of another state.” (citing Hawai’I Board of Bar Examiners Rules of Procedure Pt. 2, § 2.6(c)(10); Minnesota Rules for Admission to the Bar 5(B)(3)(1); New Mexico Rules Governing Admission to the Bar 15-103(C)(3)(k); In re Bar Admission of Vanderperren, 661 N.W.2d 27, 41 (Wisc. 2003)).
B. Sanctions

Burns v. Moorland Farm Condominium Association, 87 A.3d 392 (R.I. 2014): “Rule 11 requires attorneys to ‘make [a] reasonable inquiry to assure that all pleadings, motions and papers filed with the court are factually well-grounded, legally tenable and not interposed for any improper purpose.’ Pleasant Management, LLC v. Carrasco, 918 A.2d 123, 218 (R.I. 2007) (quoting Mariani v. Doctors Associates, Inc., 983 F.2d 5, 7 (1st Cir. 1993)). According to Rule 11, such improper purposes may include efforts ‘to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.’ The rule allows a trial justice ‘to formulate what he or she considers to be an appropriate sanction, but he or she must do so in accordance with the articulated purpose of the rule: “to deter repetition of the harm, and to remedy the harm caused.’” In re Briggs, 62 A.3d at 1098 (quoting Pleasant Management, LLC, 918 A.2d at 217).”

About The Author

Nicole J. Benjamin

I am a shareholder and business litigator at AP&S. I help businesses and their legal departments achieve their objectives by reducing their liabilities, advising them on complex legal matters and defending unavoidable litigation in federal and state court.

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