If ever there was an eyebrow-raising job title, it must be the Director for Moral Character Determinations. The position could be straight out of J. K. Rowling's Ministry of Magic, but instead it belongs to the State Bar Examiners' gatekeeper of character and fitness screening, a job with responsibilities that are anything but fictional.
When seeking admission to the State Bar of California, every applicant must pass the bar examination and submit an Application for Determination of Moral Character. (See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6060(b). Under the rules, "good moral character" includes but is not limited to "qualities of honesty, fairness, candor, trustworthiness, observance of fiduciary responsibility, respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others and the judicial process." (Cal. St. Bar Rule 4.40(B).)
Since January 2000, these applications have landed on the desk of Debra Murphy Lawson. With help from her team of moral character analysts (they really are called that), the one-time business litigator scours and verifies the details of each applicant's life. If the inspection turns up problems with an applicant - a criminal record, history of substance abuse, or acts of deceit - the application is forwarded for review to the Subcommittee on Moral Character Determinations of the Committee of Bar Examiners. (Despite much prodding and an invitation to grant California Lawyer
an interview, Lawson declined.)