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In Re Martin-trigona



Application for admission to the bar.


Petitioner, Anthony R. Martin-Trigona, applies to this court for admission to the practice of law in this State after the Committee on Character and Fitness for the First Judicial District was unable to certify that he had the requisite good moral character and general fitness to practice law. 50 Ill.2d R. 708(d).

Petitioner passed the Illinois bar examination in March, 1970, and submitted his application with the necessary affidavits to the Committee on Character and Fitness for the Fourth Judicial District. That committee conducted an extensive investigation of petitioner and held four hearings. Petitioner subsequently sought disqualification of the committee, and we ordered the matter referred to the Committee on Character and Fitness for the First Judicial District and further directed that committee to employ counsel to assist in the discharge of its duties.

Following an extensive period of correspondence between counsel for the committee and its members and petitioner and his counsel, during which time petitioner's counsel withdrew and new counsel was retained by him, that committee advised the petitioner of four matters that bore adversely to his application. First, his refusal to undergo a current psychiatric examination; second, his misleading characterization on his application of pending litigation in which he was involved; third, his communications with the committee and its counsel; fourth, the volume, nature and content of the litigation set out in his application. A hearing was held at which petitioner was represented by counsel. The committee, after receiving evidence, including various affidavits in support of petitioner's admission, was unable to certify him as qualified to practice law. In his brief, petitioner presents three issues: first, the record does not support the committee's findings; second, he was denied procedural due process; third, any further delay in his admission to practice would be unconscionable.

As the United States Supreme Court has said, "A State can require high standards of qualification, such as good moral character or proficiency in its law, before it admits an applicant to the bar, but any qualification must have a rational connection with the applicant's fitness or capacity to practice law." (Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners of New Mexico, 353 U.S. 232, 239, 1 L.Ed.2d 796, 801-2, 77 S.Ct. 752; Law Students Civil Rights Research Council v. Wadmond, 401 U.S. 154, 27 L.Ed.2d 749, 91 S.Ct. 720.) It follows that the State possesses the authority to inquire into an applicant's private and professional qualifications in making this determination. In Konigsberg v. State Bar of California, 366 U.S. 36, 6 L.Ed.2d 105, 81 S.Ct. 997, the court described a screening process for applicants who sought admission to the California bar. This procedure is comparable to that existing in this State, which initially places the burden of establishing good moral character and fitness to practice upon the applicant. Properly constituted committees have the power to investigate, question and determine fitness. (In re Latimer, 11 Ill.2d 327, cert. denied, 355 U.S. 82, 2 L.Ed.2d 111, 78 S.Ct. 153.) Where an applicant refuses to cooperate in such investigation by failing to answer constitutionally permissible questions or where the evidence adduced demonstrates other appropriate bases, a State may deny admission.

In the case at bar the First District committee requested that petitioner undergo a psychiatric examination by a specialist who would be mutually acceptable to the parties. This request occurred after the Fourth District committee had obtained information in petitioner's Selective Service file which indicated that petitioner had been purportedly found unfit for military service because of a "moderately-severe character defect manifested by well documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character." His rejection had occurred subsequent to filing his initial application for admission. This information was revealed after the chairman of the Fourth District committee had written the State Director of Selective Service on March 12, 1971, seeking access to petitioner's file. Several days later the State Director, pursuant to the appropriate regulation then in effect (32 C.F.R. sec. 1606.32(4)), authorized that an appropriate committee representative would be permitted to "review" this material at State Selective Service headquarters.

At the hearing before the First District committee, petitioner objected to the introduction of this Selective Service material. The committee overruled the objection and accepted the documents. Petitioner then submitted affidavits from his personal psychologist to the effect that any emotional problems he had previously experienced were due to factors that had since been reconciled. Petitioner further challenged the power of the committee to recommend a psychiatric examination.

Petitioner does not now contest the validity of the aforementioned Federal regulation but rather seeks to exclude the introduction of the Selective Service material on the basis that no lawful authority was established to copy the documents because the authorization only stated that the file might be reviewed. He specifically objects to the use of several documents in the file because of their alleged hearsay nature and his inability to confront the declarant as to the truth of matters therein stated. He further argues that a subsequent favorable report submitted by his personal psychologist in February, 1973, as to his present emotional stability far outweighs any detrimental observations contained in prior reports by this individual. Finally, petitioner asserts that he is willing to undergo a psychiatric examination, but only if this court so orders.

Consideration of the myriad issues raised as to petitioner's mental stability is not necessary. We find that the matters hereinafter discussed are sufficiently adverse to petitioner to warrant denial of his application for admission.

The second matter to be considered is the description of a pending action listed in petitioner's amended application filed with the First District committee which characterized a lawsuit filed by petitioner as one "for interference with [a] lease." The record reveals that this small-claims action, commenced in January, 1972, against a judge, was for "conspiracy, extortion, attempted theft and related offenses * * * violation of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, and denial of due process and civil rights * * *, and other tortious conduct." It is to be gathered from the record that this action apparently arose from this judge's conduct while in the performance of his judicial functions. Petitioner sought damages of $500.

Petitioner now alleges that there is no proof that this was a mischaracterization. Further, he maintains that his attorneys prepared this application and he did not even see this document prior to his signing the affidavit of verification to the effect that the matters contained therein were true. At the hearing before the First District committee, his former attorneys admitted that they had prepared the amended application and submitted it prior to petitioner having seen it. However, the attorneys testified that the amended application was prepared from information supplied by the petitioner and that they were unaware of the true nature of the case.

Our rules (50 Ill.2d R. 708(b)) require that an applicant submit a verified application to the Committee on Character and Fitness. It is his duty to see that matters therein are accurately described. Where, as here, a gross mischaracterization appears, the committee is justified in refusing to certify the applicant unless a reasonable explanation is proffered. A satisfactory explanation was not made in this instance. And, as we noted in the case of In re Latimer, 11 Ill.2d 327, 336, cert. denied, 355 U.S. 82, the giving of improper oaths subjects the declarant's integrity and veracity to question.

It was further proved that petitioner in his correspondence with the First District committee, its counsel and this court, made charges against the members of that committee and its counsel that were untrue, scurrilous and defamatory. While the volume of correspondence is extensive, the substance of several letters will be set out in detail. In correspondence to the committee's counsel he made a number of frivolous demands including a request for a list of clients of each committee member and the political affiliations of each member. In another, petitioner charges that the General Assembly and this court were corrupt, that this court had already decided the merits of his case and that the committee members were emotionally ill and might be compared to "scum" that rose to the top of their profession. In correspondence with this court petitioner charged that "clubby, powerful, Chicago Lawyers" were unduly delaying and harrassing him and he demanded that the committee members undergo psychiatric examination. Petitioner also asserted that in secret sessions with his prior counsel, the committee's attorney attempted to force him to cease various pending litigation. He ...

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