(A) Authority to investigate. The Commission shall make, or cause to be made, such investigation of each applicant’s moral character and fitness to practice law as deemed appropriate. The purpose of character and fitness screening before admission to the practice of law in Nebraska is to ensure the protection of the public and to safeguard the justice system. The attorney licensing practice is incomplete if only testing for minimal competence is undertaken. The public is adequately protected only by a system that evaluates character and fitness as those elements relate to the practice of law. The public interest requires that the public be secure in its expectation that those who are admitted to the practice of law are worthy of the trust and confidence clients may reasonably place in their attorneys. (Appendix A).
(1) If the investigation as to character and fitness of an applicant is completed prior to the bar examination and the Commission determines the applicant should not be approved for admission, the Commission may deny the applicant permission to take the examination.
(2) If the investigation as to character and fitness of an applicant is not complete at the time of the bar examination, the Commission may permit the applicant to take the examination. Such permission does not constitute approval or evidence of approval of the applicant’s character or fitness.
(B) Appearance before Commission. An applicant may be required to appear before the Commission upon reasonable notice and submit to an interview touching upon any matter the Commission deems relevant to the consideration of the pending application.
(1) Permitting examination. The director of admissions shall mail the applicant a certificate permitting him or her to sit for the bar examination if it has been determined that the applicant meets the examination and admission requirements provided in these Rules.
(2) Denying examination. If the applicant fails to meet the examination and admission requirements, written notice thereof shall be given to the applicant as provided in § 3-126.
(E) Referral to NLAP. The Commission may refer applicants to the Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program (NLAP). NLAP shall report to the Commission, which may make such further investigation as it deems necessary to inform itself concerning the character and fitness of the applicant.
(F) Further inquiry. The revelation or discovery of any of the following may be treated as cause for further inquiry before the Commission determines whether the applicant possesses the character and fitness to practice law:
(10) disciplinary action by an attorney disciplinary agency or other professional disciplinary agency of any jurisdiction (Appendix A); or
(G) Factors. The Commission will determine whether the present character and fitness of an applicant qualifies the applicant for admission. In making this determination through the processes described above, the following factors should be considered in assigning weight and significance to prior conduct:
(1) Any prospective applicant for admission to the Nebraska State Bar who is currently matriculating in an approved law school may file an early application solely for the purpose of receiving a determination of that person’s character and fitness for admission. An early application will not substitute for any portion of the regular bar application process, and any person filing such an early application shall still be required to complete all application materials at the time of regular application.
(3) A decision to approve the application pursuant to subsection (2)(a) above shall be binding only as to the facts and circumstances under consideration at the time and shall not prevent consideration of undisclosed conduct, subsequent conduct prior to admission or consideration of past facts and circumstances (including those already reviewed as part of an early application) which relate to subsequent conduct either directly or indirectly.
(4) A denial issued pursuant to subsection (2)(b) shall not prevent a person from filing an application for admission at a later date.
Rule 16 adopted May 22, 1996; Rule 16 amended May 13, 2004. Renumbered and codified as § 3-116, effective July 18, 2008; § 3-116 amended January 11, 2012, effective January 1, 2013; § 3-116(A) and (B) amended December 19, 2012, effective January 1, 2013; amended July 25, 2013, effective August 1, 2013.
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