For those applying for admission to the practice of law, an Application for Determination of Moral Character must be completed after registering with the State Bar as a law student or an attorney applicant. The registration application is available on the State Bar website or upon request from the Office of Admissions. Applicants are encouraged to file a moral character application at the beginning of the last year of law study or at least eight to ten months prior to the date they wish to be admitted to practice law in California.
For those applying for special admission under the Multijurisdictional Practice program or Registered Foreign Legal Consultant program, an application for Determination of Moral Character must be completed after registering with the State Bar as an attorney applicant. The registration application is available on the State Bar website or upon request from the Office of Admissions. Applicants for special admission must file a moral character application in conjunction with the application for the Multijurisdictional Practice program or Registered Foreign Legal Consultant program.
A moral character application or an application for Extension of Determination of Moral Character generally will be processed in a minimum of 180 days from the file date, unless there are issues in the applicant's background that require further investigation or review by the State Bar. A positive moral character determination is valid for 36 months, and an applicant with a positive determination who has not yet been certified to practice law within that 36-month period must submit an extension application. If an extension application is not submitted prior to the expiration date of the positive moral character determination, the applicant must file a new moral character application if they wish to pursue admission to the practice of law. (Admissions Rules, Rule 4.51.)
All questions on the application must be answered completely and accurately, or the application will be considered incomplete. Applications will begin to be processed only after they are deemed complete. The application must be signed, the correct fee must be included, and the application must be accompanied by a Request for Live Scan Service form completed within the last 90 days or two fingerprint cards completed within the last year. Any application not meeting these requirements is considered incomplete, and it will not be considered filed until it is brought to a complete status. An application submitted in hard copy form must be received in the Los Angeles Office of Admissions within 30 days of the date the application was signed.
It is the applicant’s responsibility to become aware of the moral character determination requirements, to read and understand the instructions, to update the application when changes occur, and to timely comply with all requests for further information.
It takes several months to process an application and gather all of the documents needed to finalize a moral character determination. An applicant may check the status of an application by logging into the Applicant Portal and checking the status screen. In the event an applicant cannot access the Applicant Portal, the status of a moral character application may be obtained by calling the State Bar at 800-843-9053 and asking for the assigned moral character person of the day.
An applicant has the burden of establishing that they are of good moral character. (Admissions Rules, Rule 4.40.) An applicant’s candor, honesty, and cooperation with the State Bar during the application process are essential for a proper assessment of moral character. Material omissions from the moral character application may provide grounds for a negative moral character determination, whether the omissions were intentional, resulted from a reckless disregard for the truth, or were predicated on advice of a third party.