New York trims rule for would-be lawyers to disclose police run-ins
- Change revises Question 26 of New York bar application
- Applicants will be able to omit certain records
(Reuters) - New York's courts will no longer require aspiring lawyers to reveal all encounters with law enforcement as part of their application to practice law, in a change court officials said would improve diversity in the profession.
Question 26 of the application's character and fitness review previously required would-be lawyers to disclose nearly all criminal records, which could have a "chilling effect" on racial minorities subject to disproportionate policing, the state court system's appellate division said in announcing the change.
Prospective lawyers will now be able to omit juvenile delinquency proceedings in family court, citations, tickets, arrests and other law enforcement interactions that did not end in formal charges or convictions, according to the announcement.
The change takes effect April 3, a court system spokesperson said.
The appellate division's presiding justices said in a statement that they followed "a lengthy deliberative process" that considered "the need to ensure the integrity of the legal profession and to protect the public from attorney misconduct."
The New York State Bar Association, which has advocated for the question to be removed entirely, on Thursday welcomed the change but pushed the courts to go further.
"Unfortunately, Question 26 in its revised form will still have a chilling effect on potential applicants for the New York bar, particularly when we consider the over-policing of communities of color," bar president Sherry Levin Wallach said in a statement.
The state bar association said in a report last year that the question impedes efforts to improve diversity in the legal profession and runs afoul of the state Human Rights Law and the Family Court Act. It said Thursday the question "still asks for all juvenile proceedings in criminal court.
The state's administrative board previously amended the character and fitness review process in 2020, removing a question about mental health that critics said dissuaded law students from seeking help.
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