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Re-fingerprinting underscores regulatory spotlight on CA attorneys

California attorneys hardly need to be reminded that they’re under a relentless regulatory spotlight as they pursue their professional careers.

Close scrutiny attaches to them before they even take the bar exam, with examiners probing into backgrounds and even remote histories. A sizable amount of the dues annually paid to the State Bar by California lawyers are allotted to personal investigations that follow complaints regarding their competence and alleged lapses in ethical conduct. They face thorny practice rules and restrictions that are arguably among the most complex of any industry.

State attorneys recently received a communication from bar officials notifying them of yet another exaction that potentially awaits them, namely re-fingerprinting.

The aim of that can only reasonably be to flush out illegal or questionable behaviors that attorneys have not divulged to California legal authorities. All practicing lawyers in the state must already report felony convictions and various misdemeanor convictions to the bar. A recent article highlighting the new proposal (which must be approved by the California Supreme Court before becoming a legal duty) cites its additional focus on capturing additional misconduct not reported.

That article duly notes that an attorney’s failure to report even “mandatory reportable actions” that might not be criminal can result in disciplinary proceedings. Ultimately, an affected lawyer’s license could be on the line.

The sweep of the intended re-fingerprinting promises to be vast. If the court approves the proposal, all of California’s approximately 190,000 active attorneys will need to comply. The deadline currently projected for doing so is April 30 of next year.

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