Admission Denied for Failure to 'Address Criminal Past'

, New York Law Journal

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"While the killing of a victim during the commission of a felony is an extremely serious crime, the factual circumstances surrounding this case make this crime more egregious. Here, a helpless and defenseless 69-year-old woman awoken from sleep in the sanctity of her home, bound and gagged, most likely dying in extreme terror of an agonizing death as she was slowly asphyxiated while her home was ransacked and property stolen, weighs heavily against conferring on the applicant the privileged legal status that he now seeks," Tom said. "We find the tragedy of the outcome in the present case to require a more exacting accountability."

Dissent Cites Precedent

Andrias, in his dissent, said the majority's opinion went against the First Department's March 2012 decision in Matter of Wiesner, 94 AD3d 167. In that decision, the court admitted a man who was convicted of dealing prescription drugs and trying, unsuccessfully, to kill his ex-girlfriend.

"Stripped of hyperbole and rhetoric, the majority is denying petitioner's application based on its belief that he has not been adequately punished for his past crimes, which include his participation in a burglary in which an elderly woman suffocated after she was gagged," Andrias wrote. "However, that is not the test we applied in Wiesner, which focuses solely on whether the applicant currently possesses the character and fitness to practice law."

"Here, petitioner has lived an exemplary life for more than 30 years since his release from prison and has shown that he is fully rehabilitated and currently possesses the requisite character and fitness for admission to the bar," Andrias said. "Nothing further can be accomplished, other than as an inappropriate punitive measure, by denying his application for admission, which poses no threat to the public."

The applicant is represented by Trevor Headley, who declined to comment.

The Committee on Character and Fitness referred a request for comment to Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver, who declined to comment.

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