California State Bar Uncovers Thousands of Criminal Records On Its Lawyers

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 01, 2019 | Last updated on April 05, 2019

The California State Bar discovered some 2,200 records of lawyers' criminal convictions -- and those were the convictions the agency didn't know about.

The State Bar has more than 6,000 criminal histories on its lawyers, but the new records came up during a re-fingerprinting requirement. The bar has asked all lawyers to submit new fingerprints by April 30, 2019.

So what does it all mean? Either criminal lawyer is a redundancy  -- or the State Bar records are out-of-date.


According to reports, the California bar was required to ensure retention of fingerprints in 1989. It was intended to keep the bar apprised of attorney arrests and convictions, but the agency didn't start to comply with the law until recently.

In the breach, the bar needed authority from the state to re-fingerprint lawyers who had already been fingerprinted upon admission to the bar. In 2018, the state Supreme Court ordered it.

So far, about two-thirds of the active attorneys in California have been re-fingerprinted. About 64,000 have to comply before the deadline to avoid penalties. Of the 2,200 criminal convictions discovered from re-fingerprinting, more than 99 percent involved misdemeanors. Twenty were unreported felonies, which have been referred to the State Bar's disciplinary branch.

'Worst Offenders'

At a recent meeting of the agency's regulation and discipline committee, Trustee Joanna Mendoza asked whether the lawyers who hadn't been refingerprinted were "likely to be the worst offenders." Dag MacLeod, the bar's chief of mission advancement and accountability, said it was possible.

Of course, those lawyers have 30 days to comply. It took the State Bar 30 years.

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